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Tourism numbers inch up; officials watch H1N1 cases

Date Posted: 2009-08-27

More than one-half million tourists poured into Okinawa last month, besting the numbers of a year ago, and the first increase in nine months.

The influx of 527,800 tourists during July was a 0.5% increase, and the Okinawa Prefecture Tourism, Commerce and Industry Section is pleased, but wary. The rising number of H1N1 influenza cases has them worried that the negative publicity could frighten tourists away. Airline discount tickets are being credited as a factor in more tourists giving Okinawa a look.

Tourism officials are studying the 2008 statistics, which show tourists brought more than ¥429.882 billion into Okinawa coffers, a 0.2% increase over 2007. At the same time, individual tourist spending is down by one-half percent, with each averaging ¥72,400. Repeat tourist visitors are helping, but the number of days each is staying has dropped.

Tourists are ditching high class hotels in favor of less expensive business or city type hotels. The Prefecture has set a new objective of persuading tourists to stay longer and spend more money in Okinawa, but this far, officials say, the plan isn’t working. While the target was ¥84,000 per person per visit, it has now dropped to ¥72,400, leaving officials to begin asking around “what is missing here in Okinawa?”

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