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Tourism numbers tumbling as people staying home

Date Posted: 2009-12-24

The number of tourists visiting Okinawa plummeted in October, falling by the largest margin in some 35 years. The Association of Think Hard Future of Okinawa Tourism says tourism is down 11% compared with October 2008.

The drop was the most significant since the year after the Ocean Expo 35 years ago. Making matters worse, tourism officials say the numbers only reflect the ailing tourism market through October, with little improvement forecast for November and December numbers. Okinawa Prefecture had projected 6,300,000 tourists, but statistics show only 5,600,000 actually visiting.

The economic picture is bleary, too, as tourism income is down 8.8%. Through October, tourists spent 431.2 billion in Okinawa, but that number is well below expectations of 481.5 billion. Tourism officials say the continuing economic slowdown is forcing more people to forego vacations and stay home.

The impact on the lower tourist numbers is in unemployment. Okinawa labor officials say the jobless rate is up about 1% due to the lagging number of tourists. That percentage translates into approximately 10,000 lost jobs in the tourism sector.

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