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Tourist reservations plummet as economy spirals downward

Date Posted: 2009-01-23

Only 13 reservations are on the February books for The Bankoku Shinryokan, a summit hall in Nago City, and hoteliers are fearful the situation is going to get worse.

After a happy 2008, in which business was up 7.2% over the three years earlier, officials say the business recession is plaguing their business, triggering a 78% reservations cancellation rate for February, a total of 4,500 people not coming to Okinawa. The Bankoku Shinryokan says 11 companies have explained they’ve lost their profit edge and are doing no traveling, while another 21 companies said they’ve changed travel plans for locations closer to home, saying Okinawa is too far away, and too expensive.

“In one month the reservations went down so much, and we got so many large cancellations for the first time in history,” says Hidehiko Matsumoto, the director of the Okianwa Convention Bureau. “It will continue to be hard times until the economic situation becomes better,” he predicts, and says Okinawa Prefecture and the Convention Bureau are trying to set up seminars to attract tourists from Tokyo and Osaka to the prefecture.

“Right now there’s a plan that the Minister of Tourism and the big airline companies are going to increase the number of special flights to Okinawa in March,” Matsumoto says, “but Okinawa has to find special programs or policies of demand on how to increase the number of tourists.” One direction the Okinawa Prefecture Hotel and Ryokan Life Hygiene Association is considering is whether to keep regular rates or have discounts.

Chairman Ichiro Miyazato suggests offering free hotel tickets to Okinawa residents, or offering 15% discounts. One concept would take ¥5,000 one-night hotel stays and discount them to ¥4,250 with 100 people being chosen by drawing for the hotel stays. The program will be tested from now through January 31st, with a drawing to be held February 3rd. The winners would have until March 31st to use the discount coupons.

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