The company's CEO, David Carey, says, "The key for Japan-Hawaii travel, in addition to the recovery effort, will be the airline situation and the maintenance of capacity. Hawaii remains a most desirable destination from Japan, so the key will be to retain that standing and market share as Japan recovers."
McCartney says the Japanese have a special relationship with Hawaii. "So many Japanese want to come here for the experience. They want to experience our people, place and culture, so it's a deeper relationship than just coming here for business. It's a much deeper one: They come here to rejuvenate."
Hawaii isn't completely dependent on Japan. Tourism from the mainland is up. Canadians are taking advantage of the stronger Canadian dollar. Mexico's drug wars are encouraging some tourists to come to the Hawaiian islands instead of catching beach-time on the Spanish-speaking country's two coasts. Disney is building a massive new resort on the western coast of Oahu.
And then there's China, an untapped market. Only one in 10 Chinese tourists coming to the US goes to Hawaii (many prefer Vegas instead). It's a market the islands haven't cracked. New airline routes may be on the way, and tourism officials are pushing the State Department to make it easier to get visas. Outrigger is building a resort on China's Hainan Island.
"Many people call Hainan Island the 'Hawaii of China'," says Barry Wallace. "So we're going to have an Outrigger there, show our hospitality to the people of China and invite them to come to Hawaii."
However, Wallace says it could take four to eight years to develop the Chinese market. It took 20 years to build up the Japanese market.
Hawaii is betting big on the meeting of 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Region (APE) later this year. The is in the US only once a generation, and President Obama chose his home state to host it. McCartney says it could bring Hawaii $130 million and 15,000 visitors. Wallace hopes it will show off the state in a different light: "I think it gets Hawaii seen as a potential place for a business meeting, which isn't really how people think of Hawaii."