Sharp increase in Taiwanese tourists visiting Okinawa
August 18, 2013 Wu Li Jun of Ryukyu Shimpo of the Ryukyu Shimpo
The number of foreign tourists coming to Okinawa has been increasing for five consecutive months since March. Taiwanese tourists were the largest group, at around 50 percent of the total. Their number has been increasing every month since February. The number of Taiwanese tourists to Okinawa from January to July 2013 amounted to 131,700, which is up 2.2 times on the same period last year.
People involved in the Taiwanese tourism industry expect further increases in demand for travel to Okinawa.
China Airlines currently operates 18 round-trips between Naha and Taipei every week. The number of people using the route from January to June increased by 30 percent over the same period the previous year.
Mandarin Airlines, China Airlines’ regional and domestic subsidiary, operates flights between Ishigaki and Taipei. In addition, China Airlines currently operates 14 flights to Japan. The increase in flights to Tokyo is the highest, followed by those to Okinawa.
Flight reservations between Naha and Taipei in September and October remain at a high-level, being over 80 percent full on average.
Li Yizhou, of the Taipei branch of Mandarin Airlines said, “The cheap yen contributes to the huge increase in demand for Japanese tourism. Okinawa tourism promotion by the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau has also boosted the increase in Taiwanese tourists.”
The South East Travel Service, the largest tourist company in Taiwan, saw the number of people buying Okinawa travel commodities reach a monthly average of 2,000 from January to June, twice that of the same period the previous year.
According to the company, the demand for tourism to resort areas in Southeast Asia has decreased and instead, options closer to Taiwan have gained in popularity. The demand for tourism Okinawa has increased sharply because the prefecture is close to Taiwan and it provides many shopping spots for young people.
Among the Okinawa travel packages sold by the South East Travel Service, the three-day and two-night tour is popular. This sells for about 85,000 yen but before the yen weakened it cost about 90,000 yen. Among travel commodities for other places in the main islands of Japan, four-day and three-night tours are popular.
Tokyo tours are the most popular and cost an average of 100,000 yen.
The cheap yen and Okinawa’s geographical proximity to Taiwan allows for comparatively cheap travel. Trips to Okinawa make Taiwanese customers feel that they are getting value for money.
While the company currently offers five group tours to Okinawa, they also work on sports tourism linked with cycling and marathon events.
Dan Suhui, who is at the Southeast Asia branch of the company, said, “We see ongoing Okinawa tourism promotion by the prefectural government and bureau as important to maintain healthy numbers of inbound Taiwanese tourists. We would like them to promote tourism in the prefecture’s more isolated islands.”
The South East Travel Service plans to create travel commodities to isolated islands to cover a range of needs.
The number of South Korean tourists amounted to 46,100, increasing 2.7 times over the same period the previous year. Those from Hong Kong amounted to 46,200, increasing by 61 percent.
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)
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