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Hawaii considered by Japan for resumption of travel

The Maui News

The Japanese government is looking at Hawaii as a possible destination for travel — the only U.S. destination being considered so far for safe flights, Gov. David Ige announced Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi listed 12 countries and regions considered to resume safe international travel in the near future, Ige said. They include Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Europe and Hawaii would follow in the next step, he said.

Details of the Japan-Hawaii safe travel program were still being worked out and no timetable has been set for when travel could begin, Ige said. The governor stressed that public health will be the overriding factor in determining how the program is carried out to support the state’s economic recovery.

It would require proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction test (a nasal swab) result prior to travel, in addition to a required examination of travelers upon entry to Japan, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

“Providing safe travel for both residents and visitors is vital to strengthening our state’s economic health and long-term recovery,” Ige said. “Protecting the public’s health will always be our first priority and the foundation for which any economic recovery program is built upon, including transpacific travel.”

State House Speaker Scott Saiki played an instrumental role in Hawaii being included on Japan’s list of travel destinations through his discussions with Japan’s top policymakers as the chairman of the Japan Hawaii Legislators Friendship Association, Ige said. The association provides a forum for legislative-level interactions between Japan and Hawaii lawmakers to share information and initiatives to strengthen relationships, policies and economic opportunities.

“We are thankful for this expression of confidence by Japan for the eventual renewal of travel with Hawaii,” Saiki said. “It’s just as important for Hawaii residents to be able to travel again to Japan to connect with family members, conduct business and experience historic cultural sites, as it is for us to welcome the people of Japan back to Hawaii.”

In 2019, 48,000 Japanese tourists visited Maui County, Hawaii Tourism Authority reports show. A total of 1.5 million Japanese nationals visited Hawaii with most going to Oahu. Hawaii island was the Neighbor Island attracting the most Japanese visitors, with 169,000 last year.

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