It’s Golden Week in Japan, which usually brings golden opportunities for Hawaii’s tourism industry.
But tourism officials are expecting fewer Japanese tourists to come to the islands compared to years past.
Hawaii’s tourism industry relies on Golden Week travelers because they help to boost sales during a period that’s typically slow.
“It tends to hold us over until our summer push, so we were definitely expecting a little something but it seems like it’s not coming around this time of year,” said Robert Siock of Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki.
Siock says Japanese tourists make up at least half of their customer base. Most of them purchase surfing lessons.
“So it’s tough. Our instructors didn’t do too good today. They weren’t too happy because we’re pretty slow at this point,” Siock said.
Travel agency JTB said it’s down about 2 percent from last year’s Golden Week, which isn’t too bad. The company is bringing in about 800 Japanese tourists a day on package deals.
But one of JTB’s competitors, which asked not to be named, said their company is taking a big hit. They are down 35 percent in bookings compared to Golden Week last year.
“I think there are a couple of factors playing into this year’s Golden Week — the makeup of the holidays and how that’s broke up a bit,” Hawaii Tourism Authority Vice President of Brand Management David Uchiyama said.
The holidays aren’t all together, and not everyone’s able to take all those “in-between” days off from work. Plus the yen isn’t as strong as it was last year, and there’s also the sales tax hike.
On Apr. 1, Japan raised its sales tax or “consumption tax” to 8 percent from 5 percent, which means everyday things are now more expensive.
“I think relative to last year we might be a little soft but relative to the conditions in the market I think we’re holding up pretty well,” said Uchiyama.
And for the ones who did come, and are coming, retailers are hoping to get their business.
Royal Hawaiian Center has a Golden Week incentive: spend $250 and get a souvenir tote, and a chance to spin the wheel and win a prize.
“It’s been really good. Way more than we expected, about 40 average a day,” Royal Hawaiian Center Guest Service Specialist Maggie Gordon said.
Japanese tourists have been spending on average about $262 a day according to the latest figures from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Golden Week runs through next Tuesday.