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School holidays fail to boost tourism numbers

Date Posted: 2002-08-01

Japanese schools’ summer holiday began from Jul. 20, and that usually marks also the beginning of top season for tourism industry. Hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and sight seeing spots traditionally make their biggest profits during the school vacation time when families head to resorts and beaches.

Not so this year. According to Okinawa Prefecture Tourism and Resort Section statistics, hotel reservations from July 20 through Aug. 18 are well below last year’s figures. Hotels and tour agencies confirm that many hotels still have empty rooms. “In addition to having rooms available, the prices are down. No one can charge normal high season rates,” an official at Okinawa Tourist Service said.

The four typhoons that visited Okinawa in July forcing many tourists to cancel their trips.

Another reason affecting tour industry is that many businesses have cut mid-year bonuses that they pay to their employees making it difficult for whole families to come to Okinawa. And although prices are as low as ¥29,800 for a three-day – two-night trip to Okinawa from Tokyo, there are fewer takers than before.

However, some high class resorts in the prefecture say that business is good, and they have sold out their most expensive rooms. “I don’t think it is a problem of cost. People these days have more than ever to choose from, and hotels and resorts have to work harder to plan diverse vacation schedules to attract customers. These days hotels must offer special events and services,” an official at Nikko Alivila Resort said. “It’s not enough for today’s Japanese traveler to lay on a beach and let the sun bake him or herself pink,” he concluded.

New thinking and new ideas are clearly needed if Okinawa’s tourism industry is to fulfill its potential. That’s the challenge the industry faces. Is the answer eco-tourism with longer stays, or would casino gambling guarantee more visitors and their money; those are the questions no one has answers yet.

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