Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hawaii's Tourism Bounces Back with Japanese Arriving in Droves

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hawaii's Tourism Bounces Back with Japanese Arriving in Droves

Article excerpt

STROLLING down Kalakaua Blvd. here, Masahiko Shindo and his wife, Setsuko are doing what thousands of other tourists are doing on the main drag of Oahu's top tourist area: shopping for bargains between restful days on the beach, and bus tours to areas of natural beauty.

"I came this year because the yen is good against the dollar," says Mr. Shindo, who runs his own trading company in Japan. "And these islands don't have the reputation for violence of the mainland."

The Tokyo couple's presence here this summer has been a particular reason to rejoice for both merchants and tour operators.

It signals a return of Hawaii's most prolific market after a devastating falloff in tourism numbers since 1990 - and specifically from the Japanese last year.

The Japanese, who account for 35 percent of Hawaii's annual $8 billion to $9 billion tourist income, stayed away in droves last year.

The reasons were recession at home and negative images of the second-most-popular American destination for Japanese - Southern California.

"Two Japanese students were killed in Los Angeles," says Mr. Shindo, recalling a highly-publicized murder case that followed 1992's riots, 1993's fires, and this year's earthquake. "That left a bad taste in everyone's mouth."

But concerted pushes by both California and Hawaii tourist agencies, a stronger yen, and Japan'semergence from recession could make 1994 a record year for Japanese tourism abroad.

According to Chigusa Imaoka, marketing and planning manager at the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB), the number of Japanese expected to travel abroad this year has been upwardly revised from earlier projections from 12.4 million to 13.3 million, an increase of 11.4 percent over last year.

Imaoka says Japanese arrivals to Hawaii could increase by the same margin, which would set an all-time record.

"It appears our four-year downturn is finished," says Barbara Okamoto, market research director for the Hawaii Visitor's Bureau. "The industry here is thrilled."

Okamoto's bureau statistics for the first quarter of this year confirm a 15.6 percent increase in arrivals from Japan.

THE good news is mitigated somewhat by statistics showing the Japanese are spending less per person: an average $307 per day compared to $345 in 1992. …

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