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Tourist number could double

Date Posted: 2002-04-09

A team of Meio University students with the lead of Professor Tetsu Kohama has published a study no the impact of tourism on Okinawa’s economy and nature. The main finding of the study is that Okinawa could double the number visitors from current 4 million a year to 8 million without any adverse impact on its environment, assuming that their average stay remains the same two nights and three days as it is currently.

The study examined different scenarios including various development models, different length of visitors’ stay, agricultural needs and other factors. They noted that as there are plenty of plans to develop tourism, build more hotels, shopping centers and duty free stores, and even invite more cruising ships to visit Okinawa’s ports, the main problems for increasing the number of foreign tourists are the lack of accommodations, narrow streets and poor signs, and the lack of language skills with people working in the tourism industry.

The study concluded that the longer visitors stay, the more they have impact on the environment. The limit according to the study is 9.5 days.

They recommend that future development should concentrate on the southern part of the island, and the northern part should be kept in its natural state. Large development projects should also be avoided in smaller islands such as Miyako, Iriomote and Ishigaki.

There’s still much more to study according to Professor Kohama. “This study is just a start. We must look water shortage problem and problems associated with the military bases more closely. But this study is a good start and can be very helpful for planners of the island’s future,” he concludes.

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