More than 3000 Chinese cancel travel to Okinawa because of souring relations between Japan and China

September 20, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

Increasing numbers of Chinese, who planned travel to Okinawa, and Okinawans who had booked travel to China, have canceled trips due to protests in China against the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the disputed Senkaku Islands. Chinese organizations have canceled travel to Okinawa for meetings, performance rewards, conferences, and exhibitions and Okinawan prefectural high schools have canceled school trips to China planned for 2013. Various Chinese airlines have also decreased the number of flights between China and Okinawa.

According to a representative of the Okinawa branch of the Japan Association of Travel Agents, as of September 15, 314 groups and individual tourists from Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing, Dalian and Hong Kong canceled trips to Okinawa. Forty tourists canceled trips on September 19. A total of 3279 tourists have canceled trips to Okinawa. At the same time, 52 Okinawan tourists canceled trips to Beijing and Dalian. On September 10, a total of 232 tourists canceled their travel plans to China. The China International Travel Service will also stop selling tickets for flights to Okinawa. The JCB International Credit Card Co., Ltd. planned to hold a convention inviting Chinese business partners during the period from September 26 to 29. Although the convention in Okinawa intended to invite 20 guests from China, including presidents of various allied banks in China, but 19 of them withdrew from the convention, which ended up being called off.

On September 19, the Okinawa Prefectural Yaeyama Commerce and Industry High School decided to change the destination of its school trip from China to another country.

Masaru Nakasone, assistant principal of the school, said, “We decided to make this change after considering the current situation in China. We want to decide on the destination after making sure that it will be safe, and after further studying the international situation.” The school group was scheduled to travel from Ishigaki via Naha to Beijing and Shanghai from March 9 to 13, 2013.

The situation has also affected airline companies. From September 20, China Eastern Airlines decreased the number of flights between China and Okinawa from 12 round trips with 24 flights a week to seven round trips with 14 flights. Hainan Airlines has suspended flights between Okinawa and Shanghai during the period from September 20 to October 27 and has not specified when they will resume the service. Juneyao Airlines postponed flights on September 20, but aim to resume their service from November 1. The company reported that more than 4000 tourists have canceled air-travel between Okinawa and China up to the end of October.

When asked about how these cancellations might influence the Okinawan economy, Junji Kamiya of the Exchange Promotion Division of the Okinawa Prefectural Government, said, “We want to examine the situation calmly. We will decide whether or not to create a task force after observing the situation in China for another week or so.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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