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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Golden Week a bit weaker for Hawaii

By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Japan Airlines is flying in more than 35,000 Golden Week tourists this year, but that's down from 2009.

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The number of Japanese tourists booking flights to Hawai'i for this year's Golden Week holidays is down slightly from a year ago, Japan Airlines reported yesterday.

JAL said it has sold 35,234 tickets for flights to Hawai'i for the eight-day series of holidays that begin Wednesday. That's down 2.5 percent from 2009, when Golden Week arrivals were fairly robust.

Despite the decline, Hawai'i is attracting more visitors than other overseas destinations. Globally, JAL said it is flying 244,387 passengers on international flights during Golden Week, a drop of 14.5 percent from the year before.

Japan's domestic travel market is doing much better. The number of Japanese who booked JAL flights within the country is up 18.1 percent to 911,090, JAL said.

Hawai'i's visitor industry has traditionally welcomed the influx of high-spending Japanese visitors during the Golden Week holiday, which coincides with the traditionally slow months here of April and May.

However, as the number of Japanese visitors has ebbed over the past decade, the impact of Golden Week has diminished somewhat. Japanese, who comprised more than 30 percent of total Hawai'i visitor arrivals in the late 1990s, now make up around 17 percent, according to statistics from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Still, the Japanese market is the third-largest for Hawai'i's visitor industry after the western U.S. and eastern U.S.

Japan Airlines and the Hawai'i Tourism Authority have worked overtime to develop programs designed to improve the visitor experience for Japanese tourists, particularly those who have been to Hawai'i before and are looking for new activities, said David Uchiyama, head of marketing for HTA.

Those programs, in addition to a 6 percent rise in the value of the yen over the past year, are helping boost Japanese visitor arrivals, Uchiyama said. Through the first two months of the year, arrivals from Japan totaled 183,253, a 1 percent increase from the same period in 2009.

One of JAL's more successful efforts has been the Jaloalo Program, which provides a kama'āina rate for Japanese at participating restaurants, retail stores and golf courses. And JAL's WakuWaku Aloha Promotion, which offers things like yoga and craft making, signed up 2,600 Japanese visitors within four days of its April 1 launch, he said.

Uchiyama also said he expects to hear from JAL by the end of next week on whether the airline plans to cancel a daily flight from Narita to Kona due to low passenger loads.

Uchiyama, HTA president and CEO Mike McCartney, and other visitor industry officials flew to Tokyo last week to make make their case to JAL officials for keeping the flight.

The contingent outlined visitor industry efforts to provide more attractions and activities for Japanese visitors on the Big Island, Uchiyama said.

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