photos of Waikiki Beach looking towards Diamond Head

Less than an hour before Gov. David Ige announced on October 27 that Japan was added to Hawaiʻi’s pre-travel testing program, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa virtual series addressing the reopening of tourism to Hawaiʻi discussed restoring travel from Japan and spotlighted five community leaders.

Hosted by the Shidler College of Business Alumni Association and Travel Industry Management (TIM) International, the alumni association of the TIM School, “Restoring Travel from Japan” featured Kimiko Quan, sales and marketing manager, Hawaii Tourism Japan; Janice Yasunaga, Hawaiʻi region passenger sales director, Japan Airlines; Tsuneo Ishida, president and general manager, JTB Hawaii; Maki Kuroda, CEO and president, E Noa Corporation—Waikiki Trolley; and Steve Sombrero, chairman of the board of directors, Japan-America Society of Hawaii.

Quan said that Hawaii Tourism Japan is forecasting an 82% drop in visitor numbers from Japan in 2020 and a 60% drop in 2021, compared to 2019 numbers. While the Japan government is doing its best to ensure that its residents will not lose their jobs by providing employment funds and is encouraging travel through a new campaign, Quan said uncertainties remain such as the closure and merger of some travel retail outlets, airlines temporarily suspending operations and the pending reopening of tourism to Hawaiʻi.

“It’s not going to be a dramatic recovery, but we are slowly opening, slowly welcoming back the Japanese visitor,” Quan said.

Japan Airlines has implemented COVID-19 protocols to ensure the health and safety of its passengers and employees. Yasunaga also outlined the airlines’ plan to resume routes as Hawaiʻi welcomes back visitors from Japan. Japan Airlines is also planning a non-contact hospitality experience for its guests, including a OneID boarding process, touchless check-in kiosks and avatar-type remote guidance service.

“In thinking of a new and better way of tourism, the so-called new normal, we’d like to continue to contribute to making tourism safe for Hawaiʻi residents and tourists alike,” Yasunaga said.

Ishida shared the current travel situation and future scenarios for JTB Hawaii, one of the leading Japan travel companies in Hawaiʻi. He has also shared some of their marketing concepts, emphasizing the need to personalize packet tours to meet the needs of the consumer.

“Now is a chance to change the past. Now is the time for innovation,” Ishida said.

Kuroda explained the current situation for E Noa Corporation, which is currently operating at about 3%. During the COVID-19 pandemic, employees took a contact tracing course and cleaning protocols were enhanced for company vehicles. Kuroda also described that E Noa Corporation has 100 vehicles, 65 of which are trolleys, and most trolleys are open air making it easier for ventilation.

The Japan-America Society of Hawaii is helping to advocate for the reopening of tourism from Japan and giving its members a voice in government and community about the importance of staying connected to Japan, according to Sombrero.

To view previous webinars, visit the Shidler College of Business’ Vimeo channel.

Upcoming webinar topics

The series continues every Tuesday through November 17. Each webinar will feature a different industry topic, such as tourism, health and safety, airlines, hotels, retail, restaurants and a focus on Japan. The goal of the free series is to stimulate ideas that can be implemented by Hawaiʻi businesses, tourism stakeholders, hospitality workers and the general public.

For more information and to register, visit the Shidler College of Business website.

  • November 3: Impacts and Forecast of the Retail & Shopping Center Industry
  • November 10: Impacts and Forecast of the Restaurant & Food Industry
  • November 17: Impacts and Forecast of the Activities, Events and Wedding Industry

—By Marc Arakaki