Global Tourism Summit: Japan #1 for Hawai'i

Sep 20, 2017

Japan #1
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

It was Day Two of the Global Tourism Summit in Honolulu and time to focus on Hawai’i’s number one international market.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

One-point-five million Japanese Tourists visit Hawai’i and spend more than 2 billion dollars.   This year, airline seats from Japan have increased 9 percent but the Hawai’i Tourism Authority is focusing on visitor spending.   Eric Takahata is the managing director of Hawai’i Tourism Japan.

“Look at what the airlines are doing.  Hawaiian Airlines, JAL, ANA, all the legacy carriers.  They’re cutting down on their economy class seats.  So we’re seeing a shift now to affluent, super wealthy travelers.  And we should be concerned about spending.  Not so much about how many heads and beds we get; how many people are here.  We are concerned very much more on raising spending.”

Takahata says more than 62 percent of Japanese tourists are return visitors and they’re looking for new culturally-based, rich experiences.  The Japanese government is also instituting work reform to provide more time off for Japan’s workaholics.  And, Takahata says, international competitors are upping their game.  

“Australia, Canada, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, are throwing huge amount of resources to market to the Japanese and very other destination wants to get their share of that Japanese traveler.  Right.  Of which we got the most.  One-point-five million.  We are in the driver seat right now.  We need to maintain pole position and keep this lead.”

Hawai'i Island Tourism Team. (L-R) Representative Richard Onishi, 'Imiloa Astronomy Center Director of Marketing, Yu Yok Pearring, HTA member Gerald DeMello, and Island of Hawai'i Visitor's Bureau chair, Art Taniguchi
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Completion of a 50 million-dollar customs and Immigration Inspection Station at the Kona Airport enabled Hawaiian Airlines to provide service 3 times a week from Haneda, Japan.  That was followed by Japan Airlines on September 15th with daily service from Narita.  Representative Richard Onishi represents East Hawai’i Island and chairs the House Tourism Committee.  He says there’s room for visitor growth.

“The Big island runs somewhere between 65 to 70 percent occupancy.  So there’s definitely availability, especially on the West-side.  The East side is a little more challenging.  We don’t have as many hotel-type facilities so what we’ve been trying to work on is a development plan for Banyan Drive.”

The additional flights from Japan are expected to generate 140 million dollars in additional spending.   Japan Airlines Hawai’i Regional Manager, Toshihiro Shoji, says the resumption of daily Kona flights provides alternative experiences for Japanese visitors.

Japan Airlines VP and Regional Manager, Toshihiro Shoji and Terumi Kawahara
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“We started Kona flight in 1996 and stopped operating in 2010.  So seven year absence we return to Kona.  Very happy and excited.  So star gazing at Mauna Kea and the volcano, so many things to do.”

Hawai’i Tourism Authority President and CEO, George Szigeti, says Japanese Visitors are extremely loyal and love Native Hawaiian Culture and local cuisine.

“Hawai’I has really resonated with Japan and I mean we have more Hawaiian halaus in Japan than we have in Hawaii.  And, I just got back from Japan and it’s year-round that they have that promotion of the loco moco and it’s front and center when you walk in those restaurants.”

In 2018, the state will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Hawai’I and 2020 will be the year of the Tokyo Olympics.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.