HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii saw a bump in Japanese visitors flying in for Golden Week for the first time since the pandemic started, but the number is small when compared to 2019 numbers.
The bump arrived Thursday ― with 879 people flying in from Japan.
That’s the most in two years.
But that’s just a drop in the bucket when 2019′s busiest day for Japanese tourists was over 7,000.
On Friday morning, Selena-Romana Aina stood at a curb at Honolulu’s airport waiting for flights from Japan to come in.
She’s airport staff for Charlie’s Taxi, but has spent the last few years in the office. They cater to Japanese travelers.
“This is my first day being here, ever since COVID,” she said. “We weren’t able to come here anymore, because we didn’t have any more Japanese customers coming in.”
Even though Golden Week is here, it’s far from the same.
“It’s usually busier than this,” she said. “So this is like not even anything.”
To get to Hawaii and back, Japanese visitors still face a lot of hurdles.
“One is that the Japanese government only allows so many people back through the country per day,” said Jerry Agrusa, a travel professor at the University of Hawaii.
“That’s at 10,000. They raised it from 7,000, about eight days ago.”
The American dollar also hit a 20-year-high to the yen.
“It went up to 130 yen to the dollar yesterday, that’s very high,” said Agrusa.
Businesses aren’t too hopeful about a strong return right now. Skybox Taphouse in Waikiki is starting to see a few folks come in.
“It’s a trickle, definitely a trickle,” said Alan Wiltshire, the vice president of operations at Skybox Taphouse in Waikiki. “Compared to pre-COVID, I would say 30 to 40% of our revenue was Japanese. Now, nowhere near that, still under 10%.”
But they want to prepare and hope for the best.
For the small number of arrivals here, they’re happy to finally put their toes in the sand.
“I feel like they’re happy now that they’re finally back,” said Aina. “Because I know they’ve been waiting for two years to come to Hawaii and who doesn’t want to be in Hawaii?”
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