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Cruise companies commit to Okinawa, but can Okinawa provide them service?

Date Posted: 2007-07-12

Six of the world’s leading cruise companies are including Okinawa on their itineraries now, seizing on the excitement of this sub-tropical island paradise as a tourist destination.

American companies Royal Caribbean International and Princess Cruise Company, along with Italy’s Costa Cruise Company, are among the six who have announced 43 visits to Okinawa in coming months. Company officials say the move makes good business sense, because their passengers typically have plenty of money, enjoy casinos, theater, good food and drinks, and travel. Aboard the ships, services are luxurious, offering not only standard cabins, but also staterooms and suites. Cruise lines pride themselves on offering some of the world’s finest cuisines.

The question being raised now is whether Okinawa has the capability and motivation to provide top notch service to this influx of thousands of foreign tourists. Officials are studying services available, and wonder if there are adequate numbers of qualified tour bus guides. Certified guides, who know the ins-and-outs of Okinawa, are essential to pleasing tourists, and officials acknowledge there is a shortage.

Okinawa must recruit and train more guides, one official admits, and that means adopting a more pro-tourism attitude at the local level. The tour bus guide business has been limited in scope here, and pays little in monthly wages. Tourism officials hope to change that mindset.

Tourism officials are studying how to get the tourists to the shopping areas, including DFS, the duty free shopping gallery in Omoromachi. It has to be a first-class effort, one says, otherwise people won’t come for the shopping.

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