Widespread Media Attention In Japan Is A Boost For Island Tourism
When Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Oahu and the Big Island this week it helped allay swine flu fears among many Japanese, reassuring them that travelling to Hawaii is safe. The swine flu H1N1 virus first showed up in Hawaii in May and since then has deterred many Japanese from coming to the Islands.
Swine flu effects on tourism have occurred despite the fact that most people who have contracted the swine flu have recovered without needing any medical treatment. Authorities continue to emphasize good hygiene to avoid getting the illness, and they also recommend that students and workers who are feeling ill stay home from school and work, but other than that it is business as usual in the Islands.
On the Emperor’s agenda during this week’s visit was laying a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a stop at Kapiolani Park, and a banquet in Waikiki to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship. On the Big Island the Prince was given a reception at Parker Ranch.
Hawaii’s tourism officials and business owner are grateful for the support of such a high profile imperial visit and hope it will help to increase Japanese tourism numbers which have plummeted in the last few months.
Members of the Japanese media closely followed the Emperor’s activities, streaming live coverage to Japan. The Emperor and Empress attended a series of public appearances that clearly demonstrated that they were confident they were not taking an undue health risk. Their busy social schedule, including meeting with numerous members of the public, sent a strong message that it is safe to come to Hawaii.
On the Big Island the imperial couple enjoyed a reception at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and also were treated to exhibitions of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) skills at Parker Ranch, including the roping and tying of steer. On display at Parker Ranch are two vases that were gifts from the royal family more than one hundred years ago, and the Imperial Palace Riding Club also purchased Parker Ranch thoroughbreds in the 1960s.
During the three-day visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko some local Japanese Americans expressed their hope that the events will help to reawaken a sense of Japanese identity among the younger generation being raised as Americans. About one fourth of Hawaii’s population are Japanese Americans.
The Emperor’s first visit was in 1953 at age 19 as the Crown Prince. Since then he has completed five more visits – in 1960, 1964, 1967, 1994, and this week. Currently 75 years old, Akihito is the 125th emperor of Japan, acceding to the throne after his father passed away in 1989.
With widespread media attention and a wonderful visit by all accounts, the visit of the Emperor and Empress will remain in the memory of many Hawaiians as a positive experience. As Japanese visitors continue to come to one of their favorite vacation areas, Waikiki, they will find lots of aloha and a warm welcome from locals.
Japanese visitors will also be delighted at their ability to get the best accommodations for prices lower than they have been in many years, and this includes many top hotels and ideally located condominiums as well as vacation rentals.
With reasonable air fares, low-cost/high-quality accommodations readily available, and ideal summer beach weather, Oahu’s beaches and the famous Waikiki shopping opportunities beckon across the Pacific to our Japanese friends inviting them to come experience Hawaii.