Japanese tourists flying to Honolulu may be able to complete U.S. immigration and customs procedures in Japan already, avoiding long lines after arriving after an all-night flight in Hawaii.
Governor Josh Green explains Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu serves as the primary access point from Japan to other Hawaiian Islands. Streamlining immigration before departure aims to simplify entry, potentially enabling immediate connections or continuations to neighboring islands, such as Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island of Hawaii.
Japan and Korean citizens can enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver rules and only need to apply for ESTA online prior to checking in.
Maui faced severe devastation from wildfires in August, resulting in more than 1000+ people either dead or missing. Governor Green emphasized the vital role of increased tourism in the island’s economic recovery, stressing that any visit to Maui, would significantly expedite its rebuilding process.
Compared to tourists from other places, Japanese visitors have been slower to return to Hawaii. Governor Green attributes this partly to the yen’s weaker value than usual and a decreased interest in travel among younger individuals.
Japanese arrival numbers never reached the pre-arrival numbers before the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic, many Japanese travelers have been exploring other beach destinations in Asia as alternatives.
In 2002, Japan established a pre-departure immigration clearance program with South Korea during the football World Cup, resembling the current initiative being considered with the State of Hawaii.
The United States is reportedly cautious about establishing immigration procedures offshore, and the decision to implement such measures will rest with the federal immigration authorities in Washington.
Between January and September 2019, Japanese tourists in Hawaii spent $1.65 billion, while in the same period of 2023, they spent $608.5 million, as reported by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Governor Green highlighted Japanese tourists as historically valuable due to their cultural respect and significant spending, expressing intentions to promote travel between Japan and Hawaii to enhance this relationship.
The Guam Alternative for Japanese Visitors
Hawaii has competition, even in the Pacific with Guam going after the Japanese market aggressively.
The U.S. territory, only about 3 hours flight from Tokyo is seen by many as a mini version of Hawaii, with a similar culture, and beautiful beaches.
Tokyo to Honolulu takes more than 8 hours on an overnight flight. U.S. Customs and Border Control in Guam has been seen as faster, easier and more flexible. Usually, passengers getting off in Guam stay in Guam.
GOGO Guam was a huge success for the Guam Visitors Bureau last month when exhibiting at the Tourism Expo in Osaka.