Japanese travelers
pick China

But Hawaii is gaining ground, according
to a survey of travel agents

By Tim Ruel

China will remain the preferred location over Hawaii for Japanese travelers through the end of the year, but the state has made inroads toward recovery, according to a recent reservations survey of five major Japan travel agencies.

Hawaii bookings for October are down 2.2 percent from 2000. November bookings are also down, while December is down only 0.8 percent, according to the Japan Association of Travel Agents, which surveyed travel wholesalers JTB, Kinki Nippon, Nippon Travel Agency, Jalpak and Hankyu Express. Survey highlights appeared this week in a publication of the J-Wing Travel Weekly e-mail magazine.

Yujiro Kuwabara, general manager of tour planning and marketing for JTB Hawaii, said the survey appears to be accurate. JTB is Japan's largest travel agency.

Kuwabara noted that Hawaii has fewer daily flights from Japan compared with 2000, and cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from the survey.

China's reservations jumped 40.1 percent in October, 27.3 percent in November and 91.3 percent for December, all over 2000 levels, the survey said.

JTB yesterday disclosed findings from an internal Oct. 31 survey, which identified Hawaii as the No. 1 destination for Japanese honeymooners this fall, with a 28.1 percent share of the market. The state's share was 25.5 percent last year, Kuwabara said.

Europe was No. 2 in autumn with 18.2 percent of the market, while Australia fell to third with 16.8 percent, Kuwabara said.

Hawaii's market for honeymooning Japanese tourists has proven more resilient this year than overall Japan arrivals, which were down 17 percent in the first nine months of the year compared with last year.

"Because of the economy, fewer Japanese people are traveling overseas in the leisure (market). But as far as the honeymoon goes, it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I think the desire to have a overseas wedding or honeymoon is increasing," Kuwabara said.

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