Number of Chinese tourists in Okinawa to soar during Lunar New Year

February 2, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Wu Li Jun

February 6 marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year. The Greater China region will be able to enjoy a long series of holidays, a nine-day weekend being the biggest. This is likely to bring a much larger crowd of visitors to Okinawa, compared to last year. During this period, many charter flights and extra flights will fly to Okinawa. In addition, ships will be making stops at Naha Port, including a mega cruise ship of about 160,000 tons. Meanwhile, new flight routes have been canceled, due to the lack of ground handling staff to handle service requirements within the airport. There is also growing concern over the availability of buses, since the Lunar New Year overlaps with school field trips and the professional baseball camp season.

According to the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB), from February 6 to 15, there will be a total of eight charter flights to Okinawa. Among them will be two charter flights from China Eastern Airlines, connecting Okinawa with Qingdao of the eastern Shandong Province in China for the first time. Korean Air will have four flights between Incheon and Okinawa and one flight between Incheon and Ishigaki. Asiana Airlines is planning to have one flight between Incheon and Miyako. In addition, China Airlines will have four extra flights between Taipei and Ishigaki. Juneyao Airlines will have ten flights connecting Shanghai and Okinawa. There will be a total of 26 special flights scheduled for this busy season.

However, due to the difficulty in securing enough ground handling personnel to handle the high number of flight arrivals, many scheduled flights have had to face cancellation. According to the OCVB, in late 2015, Vietnam’s low-cost carrier Jet Star Pacific Airlines had originally planned to start a regular round-trip flight route between Naha and Macao, going twice a week from February 6. However, struggles with the aircraft handling company have led to the canceling of those flights.

The OCVB representative of the overseas business division commented, “As long as we continue to lack staff in our handling companies, we won’t be able to resolve cancellation issues of newly scheduled flights.”

Meanwhile, there will be cruise ships leaving from China, making nine trips to Naha Port and three trips to Ishigaki Port. However, the OCVB worried, “February is the season for school field trips and practice camps for professional baseball teams. Sometimes we can’t prepare enough buses to accommodate travel after a large cruise ship arrives. We still don’t know if we have enough buses to take the tourists who will be arriving on these cruise ships.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Kaya Doi)

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