FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Exhibitors at the Hawaii Tourism Japan trade show are up against a three-year decline in visitors from the state's No. 2 tourism market. Above, Colette Devou, left, listened as Lance Duyao and Alexa Hough explained Big Island Candies' products.
Trade show seeks to reverse declining Japanese tourism
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Hawaii's visitor industry went on display yesterday at a Hawaii Tourism Japan trade show.
At a time when Hawaii's visitor numbers from Japan are on a sustained decline, organizers said that more than 50 vendors turned out for the event this year, a slight increase over last year, and that they hoped to see the number of participants double.
Japan, still the country of origin for Hawaii's top-spending tourists and the state's No. 2 visitor market, is now entering its third year of decline. From January through November of last year, Hawaii has seen a 3.5 percent decrease in the number of Japan visitors.
Experts have said that the health of the market in the future will depend on restoration of cut flights, stabilization or declines in fuel surcharges and airline fees. Hawaii's visitor industry will also need to improve its product quality as well as find the right formula to appeal to Japan's changing visitor mix, they said.
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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Margo Mau of the Waikoloa Beach Resort table talked with people visiting the Hawaii Tourism Japan trade show.
While a Hawaii Tourism Japan trade show yesterday was packaged as a soft sell, the pressure was on for vendors and participants to strengthen relationships and promote Hawaii to the declining Japanese tourism market.
"It's going to be a challenging year," said Dave Erdman, president of PacRim Marketing, who attended yesterday's trade show. "We'll need to be proactive to stimulate greater business opportunities and we'll all need to work together to find new ways to sell and market Hawaii."
Japan, still the country of origin for Hawaii's top-spending tourists and the state's No. 2 visitor market, is now entering its third year of decline. Last year through November, Hawaii had a 3.5 percent decrease in the number of Japanese visitors.
Experts have said that restricted availability of flights as well as high airline fuel surcharges have contributed to a softening of Japanese tourism in Hawaii. In addition, Japan's newest generation of travelers - the 30-something "dankai" junior market - isn't as likely to travel abroad as previous generations, they said. Moreover, Japanese visitor satisfaction levels are down.
Still, the market continues to bring economic benefits to the state, with per-person, per-trip spending up by 1.6 percent to $1,528 through November, and per-person, per-day spending up 0.4 percent to $269.
"If we all combine our efforts and enthusiasm, we'll have an opportunity to beat last year's numbers," Erdman said, adding that the trade show was a good start for 2008.
The event gave companies that cater to Japan an opportunity to network with other local visitor industry partners and provided a way to meet with Japanese wholesalers, travel partners, businesses and media without having to go overseas.
"It's a lot more cost-effective to do the marketing here and have them come to us," said Yoshiya Ozaki, assistant manager for the Best International Marketing Group, which was representing Cirque Hawaii and Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park at the trade show.
The event proved lucrative for the Hawaii Superferry, said Ward Yamashiro, the company's passenger sales manager. At the event, Watabe Wedding Corp., Hawaii's largest Japan wedding coordinators, approached Hawaii Superferry about hosting weddings on board, Yamashiro said. It also provided an opportunity to informally meet with recently signed wholesalers, including Kintetsu International Hawaii Co., about providing service to Japan visitors, he said.
"The Hawaii Superferry is already proving popular with Japanese visitors," Yamashiro said. "The Japanese always want something new and the Superferry is new."
Hawaii Tourism Japan, the trade show host, said that more than 50 vendors turned out for the event this year, a slight increase over last year.
"It's too soon to tell how many people will come through the trade show, but we are hoping to see the number double from last year," said Yumi Ozaki, local director for Hawaii Tourism Japan.
If only recovery of the Japan market were as easy. The health of the market in the future will depend on restoration of cut flights, stabilization or declines in fuel surcharges and airline fees as well as finding the right formula to appeal to Japan's changing visitor mix, said Hawaii Tourism Japan Executive Director Takeshi Ichikura.
Unfortunately, Japan Airlines increased its fuel surcharge effective this month, Ichikura said.
"This hike will further affect Hawaii's family travel segment as it will now cost an additional $1,000 for a family of four to visit Hawaii," he said.
Continental Airlines also announced that it will suspend daily service from Nagoya to Honolulu beginning in April, Ichikura said. When combined with a recent reduction from United Airlines, the number of flights to Hawaii from Japan is down about 10 percent for 2008, he said.