Ige takes state-funded trip to Japan to encourage tourism, economic development

(The Center Square) - Gov. David Ige is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other Japanese trade and industry officials this week in hopes of encouraging more travel from the country to Hawaii.

The governor's office said attendees include First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige, Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Director Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president & CEO John De Fries, Hawaii Tourism Authority Chairman George Kam and House Speaker Scott Saiki.

The trip is funded by taxpayers. An estimated cost will not be available until later this week, according to a spokesperson for Ige.

“Japan is our most important international source of travelers to Hawaii, and we look forward to rekindling our relationship," Ige said in a news release. "As our state focuses more on destination management over getting more visitors to the islands, we recognize that Japanese visitors are a priority for us because they tend to engage in the community, they’re respectful of the Hawaiian culture and of our environment."

Japanese visitors begin returning to the Aloha state in March as tour packages resumed, state officials said. The March monthly visitor statistics released by the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism show that just 4,038 people from Japan visited the state in March 2022 compared to 133,858 who visited in March 2019. Visitors from Japan spent $11.8 million in March of this year compared to $185.2 million in the same time period in 2019.

Ige will also discuss economic development and clean energy with Japanese leaders, according to the news release.

“Japan is committed to the United Nations' sustainable development goals which includes clean energy," Ige said. "They want to learn from Hawaii, which is a leader in renewable energy and the first state in the U.S. to set a 100% renewable energy goal."

The governor is expected to return from his trip on Friday. Lt. Gov. Josh Green is acting governor in Ige's absence, according to the news release.

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