HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – As the pandemic impacted Hawaii’s largest international visitor market, travel professionals from Japan said they foresee more people visiting the islands by June.
Hiroyuki Takahashi, director of the Japan Association of Travel Agents, told state leaders Tuesday night that once Japan drops its strict COVID restrictions, the masses will return to Hawaii.
“It was a chicken skin moment you know, it’s been so long since they come here,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority Board Chair George Kam.
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii welcomed nearly 1.6 million visitors from Japan in 2019 ― accounting for about 12% of all visitor spending.
The delegation from the Japan Association of Travel Agents will now return home with assurances that Hawaii is ready.
“This is going to be part of our work now to go back to Japan and tell our customers that it is safe,” said Takahashi. “Right now, there’s an inbound cap into Japan of 10,000 people a day so that remains still a slight impediment.”
“But when that cap is lifted, and taken out, that’s when we’re going to see real significant travel restart from Japan to Hawaii.”
Government leaders said this is a step forward to aid the state’s economy.
“I know this is really just the next opportunity and milestone as we begin to recover our economy,” said Gov. David Ige.
Panda Travel’s product development manager, John Defreitas, said many Hawaii families are anxious to see Japan after two years on hold. He said his agents are getting about 30 calls a day from people eyeing a trip to Japan.
But like everyone else, they’re waiting for the government to drop the quarantine and testing requirements.
“There’s so much that once we know, we can better serve our clients,” said DeFreitas.
As of right now, there is no set date on Japan loosening restrictions.
“So, it is when the strict border measures are lifted by the Japanese government,” Takahashi said. “And we do not have any indication at this point of when that’s going to be.”
Takahashi said we should see the return of the Japan Market to meet pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
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