HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Gov. David Ige is planning to travel to Japan next week in hopes of working to restore Hawaii’s largest international market.
The state is prioritizing the return of Japanese visitors, not only to boost the economy but to set a new tone for Hawaii’s tourism industry.
While there, Ige is hoping to have a direct meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“I think we all recognize that Japanese visitors are the ones that we want,” Ige said, on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii.
“They tend to engage the community, they’re very, very respectful of Native Hawaiian culture.”
Ige also said he wants to negotiate a special travel relationship with Japan.
“I’m going to be talking to them about treating Hawaii differently than the rest of the United States,” he said. “I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but really talk about the notion that Hawaii has the lowest infection rates in the country and the fact that many still continue to wear their mask.”
The pandemic crippled Hawaii’s tourism industry, especially with Japan being the “most important international source of travelers to Hawaii.”
The Hawaii Tourism Authority said there were 1.5 million Japanese visitors in pre-pandemic 2019, spending more than $2 billion.
Last year, there were only 24,000 visitors from Japan. This week, Hawaii saw a bump in Japanese travel due to Golden Week, but the numbers were still well below normal numbers.
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