Online travel companies actively promote Okinawa as a travel destination

February 12, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

One after another, major international online travel companies are promoting Okinawa as a travel destination. Booking.com (based in the Netherlands) and Expedia (based in the US), have both established regional offices in Okinawa. Japanese domestic integrated online travel site Rakuten Travel (based in Tokyo) is raising the number of accommodations it features to 1000, and editing its information on reservation prices and favorability assessments.

Head of the Japan Hotel Association’s Okinawa Chapter Satoshi Toyama stated that foreign sightseers have come to more commonly plan their trips personally using online resources rather than using a travel agency. He observed that major international online travel companies are promoting Okinawa with the hope that the number of sightseers planning personal trips to Okinawa will increase.

Booking.com Japan established a regional office in Naha in November last year and featured 360 accommodations within Okinawa. The company has now increased that number by 11.1 percent to about 400 accommodations. A representative of Booking.com admitted that the benchmark number of accommodations the company initially expected to feature in order to make the regional office practical was quickly surpassed. The same representative said that the company is proposing more active establishment of new facilities on the island, and development of the already-existing facility. Currently there are only five staff members at the Naha office, but the company plans to increase its staff.

Expedia established its fifth branch office in Okinawa on February 5. Currently, 284 accommodations within Okinawa have registered with the site. By June, the company hopes to have 300 registered Okinawan accommodations. Head of Expedia’s Okinawa branch Miho Yamazaki said, “Up to 2014 reservations were concentrated in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. However, since January 2015 Okinawa has outranked Kyoto as the third most common place [in Japan] to make reservations.” She eagerly concluded, “From here on out, we hope Okinawa keeps third place.”

The amount of money paid for reservations through Rakuten Travel increased by 20.8 percent between 2014 and 2015 for the period between January 1 and November 15 both years. The majority of trips planned through the Rakuten Travel site are family trips. Second and third in commonality are trips for couples and lone men. A representative of Rakuten Travel said that company’s strategy for attracting more site users includes picking out many more charms in Okinawa than just the image of blue skies and the ocean, in order to make it a more appealing travel destination to users.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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