Hawaii’s Governor Wants to Make It Easier for Travelers from Japan to Visit the Islands

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green speaks during an interview in his office in Honolulu, Aug. 31, 2023.

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii leaders want to make it easier for tourists from Japan to visit the U.S. state by creating a pre-clearance program allowing travelers from the country to save time at the Honolulu airport by completing immigration, customs and agricultural inspections before departure.

Gov. Josh Green and other state officials proposed the idea during a recent visit to Tokyo. Green hopes the program will help boost tourism to the islands, Hawaii News Now reported Tuesday.

Tourism from Japan, Hawaii’s top international visitor market, has been sluggish since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hawaii is keen on bringing more travelers from Japan back because “that’s the tourist that knows how to carry themselves in Hawaii and how to care for our aina and so on,” Green said, using the Hawaiian word for land.

A pre-clearance program, which has been discussed for many years, could open direct routes to other islands, including Maui, Green said.

Soon after a deadly wildfire wiped out much of the west Maui town of Lahaina, the Japan government donated $2 million in humanitarian aid.

State House Speaker Scott Saiki, who joined Green on the trip, said Japan officials were concerned about how much the program would cost and how it would be implemented and enforced.

Green said he will ask Hawaii’s delegation in U.S. Congress to help make the program possible.