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Japan: Maintaining Success in a Mature Market

Japan is the largest international market for Hawaii’s visitor industry who last year made up 18 percent of all arrivals. However, due to the strengthening U.S. dollar against foreign currencies and an unstable Japanese economy, visitor spending slightly declined (-2.9%) in 2014 to $2.4 billion. The HTA projects that the market will continue to soften in 2015. 

Hawaii Tourism Japan has been working on innovative ways to showcase the Hawaiian Islands to this mature market. In 2014, HTJ launched a campaign with the popular Ultraman character and partnered with top-boy band Arashi for a concert in Hawaii that brought thousands of Japanese to the state, reaching a new demographic. 

This year, more exciting and new programs will take place to promote Hawaii, including the launch of Shak- chan, a mascot character that will be used to promote Hawaii and educate the Japan market about the shaka symbol or gesture and the meaning of aloha. Check out the story of Shaka-chan here

“Mascots are extremely popular in Japan,” said Miki Wakai, HTA’s brand manager for the Japan market. “The launch of Shaka chan has been well received so far, and we will focus on promoting the character as a part of the Hawaii-brand through online promotions, events and more.”

In addition, HTJ also launched the World Mac Hawaii campaign, in partnership with McDonald’s Japan, Ltd. The promotion includes a trip giveaway contest to Hawaii and features five Hawaiian-themed menu items: a Hawaiian BBQ pork sandwich, loco moco burger, Hawaiian pancakes with mixed berries, pineapple pie and a McShake banana. The exclusive items will be available at more than 3,100 locations throughout Japan from Feb. 10 through March 30. Promotions around this include outdoor, TV and newspaper ads, in addition to posts on McDonald’s traditional and mobile websites, which receive an average of 125 million page views per month. The ad is available online at

The publicity around this campaign is estimated to be valued at more than $2 million. 
“This promotion will help us reach millions of Japanese across the country and allow us to share the taste of the Hawaiian Islands and entice consumers to want to experience the destination first-hand,” added Miki.

The Japan market will also be supported by additional air seats to the state as ANA will be increasing frequency from seven to 14 weekly flights between Narita to Honolulu beginning in July. The HTA estimates this increased airlift will generate an estimated $50 million in incremental visitor spending and $5.3 million in state tax revenue. 
“ANA’s commitment to Hawaii with this increased flight frequency is a testament that Hawaii remains a popular destination for Japanese and there continues to be demand for travel to our state,” said Miki.    

This year, the HTA is projecting that visitor arrivals for Japan will reach 1.57 million and $2.5 billion in spending, an increase of 1.3 percent and 3.3 percent over 2014 respectively. 

We will continue to monitor economic conditions in Japan and work with HTJ to ensure the stability of this mature market. For additional updates and upcoming opportunities, sign up for the HTA Spring Marketing Update on March 11, where HTJ and the other global contractors will be presenting.



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