Buy & Sell
The number of people traveling overseas from Okinawa is on the rise. According to local tourist agencies, the number of travelers is increasing steadily, and many travel agencies expect a full recovery from the slump caused by the war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic in Southeast Asia earlier this year.
Overseas travel recovers
Date Posted: 2003-07-24
Many tour operators say that they have experienced a significant increase in inquiries for tickets to foreign destinations, and are confident that the troubles they experienced will be but a distant bad memory by the end of the year.
Many tour agencies that concentrate on overseas travel had to employ new strategies to stay in business. One was Chuo Tourist Agency, which extended its business hours until midnight in order to attract more travelers. “We had to stay open for business for as long hours as possible to ensure that we wouldn’t miss any customer who wanted to buy a ticket. Now the negative influence of SARS and the Iraq war are starting to fade and those people who decided not to travel overseas are starting to come back,” a manager at the agency said in a telephone interview.
He added that many people who had cancelled their trips are now calling with inquiries about renewing their original plans. “We are seeing an increase in both business and leisure travelers, and I expect the business to peak this holiday season starting from now on, especially to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada that were the hardest hit regions,” the manager stated.
A spokesman for HIS, a travel agency that specializes in overseas travel, points out that as many overseas destinations are struggling to attract their visitors back, bargains abound. “Prices to almost any destination in Asia are \20,000 to \30,000 less, compared to prices a year ago. And that has nothing to do with the season,” he said. He also expects the volume of travelers to return to that of a year ago by the end of the year. “Travel to Bangkok and Hong Kong is rebounding strongly, and other destinations are not far behind,” he stated.
One of the hardest hit airlines was the Taiwan-based China Airlines, which saw its aircraft fly only 30 percent full at the height of the SARS epidemic. Officials at the airline’s Okinawa Branch Office said that the situation is now returning to normal. “Since the travel advisory against trips to Taiwan was lifted at the end of June, we have seen a steady return to last year’s level. Our flights to the U.S., Bangkok and Hong Kong from Taipei are now sold about 80 to 90 percent, and flights to and from Okinawa are also recovering to the level they were a year ago,” the CAL sales manager said.
Although Korea was not affected by SARS, travel to Korea has also been down. ”We are about 20 percent down when compared to last year, but we look forward to seeing a full recovery by the end of the year,” a spokesman for the Seoul based Asiana Airlines said.