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New cruise ships boost tourism to record high

Date Posted: 2008-05-02

Tourists visiting Okinawa increased by 3.3% in 2007, and Prefecture officials say new cruise line routes were a primary reason.

An increased number of charter air flights were also credited with bringing 5,892,300 tourists to Okinawa last year, a number just shy of the 5.9 million the tourism division had predicted. Also counted as a boon to travelers was the start to Hong Kong Airlines flights to the island.

Okinawa has set the target of 6.2 million tourists for this year, a number called ‘achievable’. International tourism accounted for 95% of the increase. Only a 1.7% rise in domestic tourists was recorded. One specialty Okinawa is touting is the islands’ idyllic location for weddings. Resorts have created special wedding packages for couples, and many have their own wedding halls and chapels. Most are located along the ocean, presenting the beaches as island paradise for newly weds.

The continued increase in oil prices is worrisome to tourism officials who fear the troubled airlines will raise their airfares and discourage people from traveling. Okinawa officials say thus far, things are looking good for 2008, noting international tourism was up 91.2% in March, while even domestic visitors improved by 1.1%.

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