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Tourist numbers up, but not spending Y

Date Posted: 2006-05-27

More than 5,000,000 visitors came to Okinawa last year, but they didnít spend much money.

That fact disturbs government agencies as they try to figure out why. Naha City has surveyed residents to get their thoughts, they say the problem is getting around. Parking is a major problem, and 96% of the respondents say a shuttle bus system is needed. Hotels each have their own shuttle buses to transport guests to select shopping areas, restaurants and sightseeing locations. They typically will not take guests to areas other than those picked by the hotel.

Naha City has operated one bus route since 2004, working the Shuri area, including Mawashi and Oroku, the downtown popular spots, and on to Wakasa and the monorail station.

A community bus could make Naha Cityís businesses smile, officials say, because parking is difficult and expensive, discouraging visitors from patronizing areas such as Kokusai International Street, restaurants, clubs, and tourism sites. Government officials and private enterprise have been wrestling with the declining spending issues for more than a year, looking for creative solutions to get tourists to part with their money.

A shuttle bus system would help, survey results indicate, with route stops at libraries or community halls, city and prefecture offices, bus stops, supermarkets, shopping malls and hotels. Hospitals, health centers and monorail stations are also identified as needed stops.

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