As Japan begins to open its borders to foreign travel following a three-month restriction in response to the Omicron variant, Pacific airline companies are preparing to reap the benefits of increased travel activity to and from the East Asian nation.
“We’re gearing up in anticipation of the Japanese market, which is the most important international market for Hawaii opening up over the next couple of months,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told Yahoo Finance Live in a recent interview. “We’re really monitoring that situation very closely. And that’s going to dictate a big part of how our schedules look for the summer.”
Travelers from Japan typically are the largest tourism group in Hawaii, according to Hawaii Public Radio. In 2019, Hawaii welcomed 1.5 million arrivals from Japan, The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority reported.
The Japanese government announced that it would increase the limit on new arrivals from 5,000 to 7,000 each day and, beginning April 1, will raise the figure to 10,000. The world’s eleventh-most populous country has been a bit of an outlier in regards to international travel restrictions in the past few months, taking a more aggressive approach to limit potential coronavirus outbreaks.
“I think there’s the same potential for [increased demand] on the international side, as policy changes are put in place in places like Australia, which we’ve already seen, and then Japan and Korea, which are starting to relax some of their restrictions for transborder travel,” Ingram said. “And that positions us pretty well.”
In November, Japan shut its border to non-Japanese travelers in response to the outbreak of the Omicron variant. Even now, access to Japan from the U.S. is extremely limited. Travel for tourism is still not allowed in Japan.
“We’ve seen a great recovery in terms of demand for domestic leisure travel and demand domestically for travel into Hawaii,” Ingram said. “[The recovery] was upset a little bit in the back part of the year with the Delta surge and then the Omicron surge at the end of the year. But as we’ve entered 2022, and we’ve come down from that peak in Omicron cases, demand is very strong and shaping up to be a good summer domestically.”
Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.
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