Hawaii Governor Courts Japanese Tourists. What About Mainland Visitors?

Japanese visitors to Hawaii remain at a fraction of normal, and mainland arrivals are down too after the Maui fire. Will Hawaii Governor Josh Green help lure either back? He was betting on Japan first and traveled with a large entourage this week to the Far East. This is his second outreach trip to Japan since he was inaugurated. There are many obstacles in front of him, however, considering the Yen is weak compared to the US dollar. Japanese are not traveling very much internationally now and are visiting domestically instead to help their economy.

After meeting with Japan Airlines and ANA Airlines yesterday, the message back to Hawaii was not to expect an increase in Japanese visitors for two more years. Compared to pre-pandemic travel, Japanese visitors are now down up to 50%. Looking at the week of November 5, the past three years, in 2019, it was close to 6,000 Japanese visitors in that week compared to this year with 3,000 visitors, which is still better than the 1,500 recorded in 2022. While visiting Hawaii is now more expensive for the Japanese, the state has in its arsenal a faster clearance procedure at Honolulu Airport to reduce the current processing wait times.

Should Hawaii look closer to home for its loyal visitors?

Considering all this and the fact that mainland travel to Hawaii remains depressed after the Maui fire, we wonder if the state should be looking at its home turf first, just like the Japanese are asked to do when it comes to their own travel.

While Green’s visit is focused on luring Japanese visitors to return to Hawaii, it also includes giving thanks for Japan’s $2 million contribution made to Hawaii following the Maui fire in August and promoting Hawaii-made merch at the Aloha Market at Tokyo Haneda Airport, which sells island products.

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Green advocates for international tourists, fewer low-end visitors, and “any” $50 fee.

Governor Green has long been an advocate for the voice of reduced domestic tourism in Hawaii. His 2022 campaign (still online) indicated that his top administration priorities include “reducing the total number of tourists” and the implementation of a “$50 impact fee for visitors.”

The former has happened of its own accord, while the latter has thus far failed to happen but is by no means gone entirely. Watch for a new $50 fee to return to the state legislature in 2024. Green also aspires to reduce the number of “low-end” Hawaii visitors. It seems, however, that his goals in relation, at least to Japanese visitors, may be entirely different.

Post Lahaina fire Climate Impact Fee replaces prior $50 visitor fee concept.

Since the Maui fires, Green advocated for a revised visitor fee, now coined a Climate Impact Fee. He said that the $50 fee would now be used to benefit firefighting. “We’re going to need money to make sure we have more firefighters, that we have more equipment, and we have more money for investigations like this.”

Hawaii Accommodation Tax | Highest in US

Everyone still wonders where Hawaii’s highest accommodation tax in the country goes.

The most expensive tax on hotels and vacation rentals in the U.S. is paid by visitors and Hawaii residents who travel. It isn’t apparent how the money is used, especially given the painfully lacking tourism infrastructure, for example, from Hawaii parks to airports, public roads to restrooms.

Will Climate Impact Fee be a further turnoff for mainland visitors and Japanese?

Should any bill eventually be enacted and deemed legal, there might also be permits or licenses obtainable online or at physical locations statewide. Originally thought to be charged via airlines and accommodation providers, that is no longer likely. In any event, enforcement would pose a considerable challenge. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has advocated for such fees and, as the enforcer, would need to staff up. Even then, questions about the feasibility of enforcement remain unanswered. If the fee is still based solely on the use of state-designated resources, even distinguishing between the county and Hawaii state parks, especially for visitors unfamiliar with our local geography, presents a logistical challenge. The uncertainty further extends to the legal aspects of implementing any such fees.

Furthermore, skepticism abounds regarding whether money collected would ultimately support intended purposes or instead funnel into the state’s general fund. The state’s track record in earmarking of funds for special uses remains concerning.

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28 thoughts on “Hawaii Governor Courts Japanese Tourists. What About Mainland Visitors?”

  1. Doubtful that Japanese visitors will return in large numbers. I was happy to hear announcements in both English and Spanish at Hawaiian Airlines LAX as there were no Japanese travelers ,and Spanish speaking visitors are coming to Hawaii

  2. I have Japanese family, they’re not budging. Hawaii is considered too expensive – especially with the Yen/Dollar exchange rate. Additionally, the islands, Waikiki in particular, are increasingly viewed as unsafe and hostile by many Japanese. They’re turning more and more to destinations such as Taiwan and Thailand for affordable, safe, tropical vacationing. Anecdotal but it’s what I hear from them.


    1. Interesting you bring up the safety, I travelled to Hawaii on Business 1986-2015, the first 20 years maybe 5X/Annum, the last 9, 4X/Annum, since Annually and Waikiki only now, there was never Security issues until the Ige Lock-down and following with the anti-Tourist, especially from the Mainland monolog. It seems in both Kauai and Maui it’s become militant, and in Waikiki there have been issues at night, when never before. Hopefully, that changes for all.

      1. When a Japanese person starts using the words “abunai” (dangerous)and “kitanai” (dirty) as part of their description of what’s supposed to be a premium vacation destination it’s never good… My aunt was floored by the public urination on her last visit a few years ago…

        Best regards

  3. I used to think the anti visitor attitude was limited to a vocal minority, but once you start seeing laws passed that restrict visitor access and a two tiered system where only visitors are charged for access to certain areas, you realize the attitude towards tourists runs much deeper.

    Also, as other have mentioned the disgusting elitist attitude toward “low value” tourists will likely not play out well, people that truly have the funds to stay anywhere they want will not tolerate run down rooms/facilities at “high end resorts”.

    Also, the $50 fee and other fees are just plain insulting and I think part of the intent is to remind visitors of their “place” when visiting and Hawaiians getting their “pound of flesh”.

  4. The way our moron Governor here in Colorado gets around imposing taxes he changes the wording to Fees. In short, we voted in a bill called The Tabor bill. Basically the state cannot impose a tax without a vote by the people. Then if the state has a surplus of tax funds, we get that surplus back as a refund. Fees don’t not need a vote by us. It’s amazing how soon the people that are vote into office forget how they got there.

  5. Governor Green, seems to be very transparent, trying to move the shells in the table, now calling the $50 Fee (Violation of Interstate Commerce) a Climate Fee. This, not unlike, His predecessor Ige, scooping up all the County Room Taxes and putting them in the States General Fund, and creating the highest Room Tax worldwide. To Climate, would it not be more that Politico’s ignored Surveys built over 7 years, that Hawaiian Electric destroyed evidence during the lockdown and The State held back needed water to fight the fire, with trucks unable to go off road and pumps not functioning! It would seem Green, knows not that Japan retreated from Hawaii in the late 1990’s, despite owning most of the Resort hotels in Waikiki. Nice trip!

    1. Also, when city cops pull you over on city road and give you a ticket, the money goes to the state general funds. Talk about slush money.

  6. Be careful what you wish with for with “high-end “ vs. “low-end”. Some of the biggest cheapskates I know are wealthy people. They wouldn’t tip if their lives depended on it.

    1. That’s because the “low end” visitors know how hard it is to earn a buck and acknowledge that by giving good tips when they are here and appreciate our Aloha spirit.


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