Asia Minute: Okinawa’s Tourism Numbers Surpass Hawai‘i’s—By Some Measures

Feb 12, 2018

Furuzamami Beach, Okinawa
Credit Hashi photo / Wikimedia Commons

2017 was another record year for tourism in Hawai‘i for the sixth year in a row. But another Pacific island destination had an even bigger year last year—thanks in part to Hawai‘i. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

For the first time ever, Okinawa has attracted more tourists than Hawai‘i. That’s for calendar year 2017 based on government statistics from both sides.

Last year, Hawai‘i set a record with 9.38 million visitor arrivals. Okinawa edged just a bit higher with a total of 9.39 million visitor arrivals. Despite the similar headline numbers, there are a lot of differences.

Cruise ships play a huge role in Okinawa’s visitor figures—largely coming from elsewhere in East Asia.

Credit Matthew Barra / Pexels

Cruise ships made a record 515 port calls last year—up by a third from the year before.

Demand remains strong—especially with travelers from Taiwan and China.

According to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, cruise ships play a much smaller role in the islands. Last year, 69 out of state cruise ships came to Hawai‘i—bringing about 126,000 visitors.

Another difference: length of stay.

For Okinawa, the average is not quite four days. In Hawai‘i, last year’s average stay was nearly nine days.

The head of Okinawa’s prefectural tourism office says the island has lessons to learn—adding “For Okinawa, Hawai‘i is a model in its quest to be a world-class resort.”