Visitor numbers record high, expected to continue rising

A total of 8,769,200 people visited Okinawa in 2016 setting a new record for the fourth consecutive year. The number is a 19.5-percent increase from 2015.

2,129,100 of the visitors were from overseas, that is a 27.5% increase and the first time to exceed 2,000,000 people. Domestic tourists numbered 6,640,100, which is a 6.0% increased.

Expanding domestic and foreign airlines and the increasing number of cruise ship port calls contributed to the strong increase.

The strong increase in the number of visitors from overseas is in line with the popularity of visiting Japan.

A number of airlines serving Naha Airport is also increasing in spite of the congestion that the construction of the second runway off shore is expected to alleviate in 2020. The latest major foreign airline to add Naha to its destination is Korean Air Lines.

Cruise ships called Okinawa ports a record 387 times in 2016, and the prefecture expects the number to rise to 502 in 2017.

By country of origin, the numbers increased for every county; 652,000 people visited Okinawa from Taiwan, an increase of 29%, 452,000 visitors came from Korea, an increase of 35.8%, the number of visitors from China increased 22.7% to 435,400, while visitors from Hong Kong increased 8.0% to 218,000.

Regarding the number of domestic tourists, there were few typhoons, and government and private business efforts to raise customer satisfaction were successful.

New routes by low cost carriers, and direct flights to isolated islands from Haneda and Kansai increased steadily.

Okinawa Vice Governor Moritake Tomikawa stated, “The number of tourists increased as predicted. We will continue our efforts to expand the tourist business in the prefecture.”

With more airlines expected to expand to Okinawa in this fiscal year, and the port calls of cruise ships seeing a big rise from 2016, officials are optimistic that Okinawa will see the favorable trend to continue also in 2017.

The biggest problem, especially affecting the cruise ships, is a severe shortage of taxis and buses. Prefecture officials say that they are aware of the problem, “We recognize it as an urgent issue. We will initiate cooperation between related organizations in the future, and are considering steps to alleviate the problem, such as setting a shuttle bus service connecting the ships landing lacations to points in Naha City,” an official at the Visitors’ Bureau said.