Japan’s travel agents resume Hawaii tours after two-year hiatus


Japanese travel agency JTB Corp. announced Wednesday that it will begin sales of a package tour to Honolulu on Friday, for departures from April 28, roughly two years after halting overseas package tours amid pandemic-induced restrictions on travel.

HIS Co. also said it plans to resume package holidays to Hawaii, with departures starting May 1, the first time it’s operated such tours to one of Japan’s favorite destinations since halting them in March 2020.

Japan decided earlier this month to lift its cap on international arrivals to 10,000 per day and has opened its doors to businesspeople and students as it gradually moves to ease restrictions, although entry of foreign tourists remains effectively banned.

JTB said it made the decision to resume such tours following an inspection tour by the Japan Association of Travel Agents to Hawaii earlier this month.

After meeting with Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Hiroyuki Takahashi, the JTB chairman and head of the association, said, “We hope the number of visitors (from Japan) to Hawaii will fully recover in 2023 to 1.5 million a year, the same level as 2019.”

The move signals some good news for HIS, which has posted eight consecutive quarterly net losses as it grapples with COVID-19’s impact on its business. It was also hit by a scandal in which its subsidiaries misused government subsidies intended to boost domestic travel, distracting it from efforts to secure liquidity and cut risks to weather the crisis.

The Tokyo-based company says its tours will offer customer support “from pre-departure to return home,” including arranging PCR tests and a 24-hour Japanese-language support line in Hawaii.

Japan is by far Hawaii’s biggest source of international tourists, with more than 1.5 million arrivals by air in 2019 before the pandemic, nearly triple that of the next biggest market, Canada. The figure for Japan plunged to less than 290,000 in 2020, data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority show.

HIS shares have plunged 33% since January 2020. They were little changed as of 12:40 p.m. in Tokyo against a 1% rise in the Topix index.

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