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September typhoons inflict Okinawa financial damage

Date Posted: 2004-11-05

A record breaking typhoon season is pounding Okinawa’s economy.

Twenty-four typhoons have swept across the northwest Pacific this season, with ten paying Okinawa a visit.

Four of those visitors were in September, causing the local economy to lose ground. October’s statistics will undoubtedly be worse, as additional typhoons hit.

Ryukyu Bank’s Economics Investigations Section reports tourism industries were most heavily hit as tourists fled the island, with sightseeing related business falling 22.6%, and hotels dropping 14.7%. Golf courses suffered losses of 6.4%.

Day to day businesses were hurt too. Department store sales down 2.5% and supermarket revenues dropped 5.3% in September. Heavily hit too were building construction, down 12.1% and construction work, down 9.7%.

The only bright spot in the economic picture was a modest 2.9% increase in electronic goods sales, perhaps because people were pushed inside by the storms.

Typhoon Chaba, called the strongest storm to hit Okinawa in years, was first to strike in September, followed by Songda, Sarika (a singing bird) and Meari. Songda, named for a river in northwest Vietnam, swept past Okinawa and on to mainland Japan, where it killed 24 and injured more than 700.

While the economy felt the storms, the human toll was light on Okinawa, and physical damage was also limited. The labor losses, together with the tourists who either fled or stayed away, caused the cutbacks. October’s continuing typhoons will further impact economic statements, but there’s good news too.

JTA company has announced it will fly 172 charter flights during the month-long period beginning November 9th, bringing more than 3,300 tourists to Okinawa. Winter is a popular time for mainland Japanese, particularly from Hokkaido and other colder climates, to visit Okinawa. For them, sun beats snow every day.

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