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Study of Okinawan history falls casualty to COVID-19

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29.06.2020

Kobe – Japan as a whole has seen a huge decline in tourists due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the related travel restrictions, but the impact on Okinawa, heavily dependent on tourism, has been even more staggering.

Okinawa is facing a triple punch economically due to the global pandemic. First, the number of international tourists has declined dramatically. Second, the number of domestic travelers to Okinawa has similarly declined. Third, the contributions of U.S. military personnel and their family members within Okinawa have dropped dramatically due to their inability to frequent stores, restaurants and other locations as in the past.

Okinawa had long been on a rising trajectory for tourism. In 2017, for example, Okinawa’s tourist numbers (9.4 million) surpassed Hawaii for the first time ever, an increase of 9.1 percent over the previous year. Moreover, that same year there were more than 515 port visits to Okinawa, many from Taiwan and China, which was an increase of 33 percent over the previous year.

In 2019, the number of tourists topped 10 million, with nearly 700 port visits, and all indications were that the pace of increase would continue. Numerous new hotels have been built in recent years and many dozens more were under construction. Car rental agencies had also invested heavily in new fleets of vehicles, and the prefectural government is in the final stages of finishing some of the monorail extensions as part of its third sector project to ease congestion on some of the roadways between Naha and Urasoe.

Earlier this month, I visited Okinawa for research, media appearances and other meetings. A few days before departing, I was informed the airline would be using a smaller aircraft, likely due to the decline in........

© The Japan Times