Okinawan MICE sellers fret over Senkaku Islands tussle

POLITICAL tensions between Japan and China over the ownership of Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture have put some Okinawan MICE sellers at the edge of their seats, as China is one of the destination’s key tourism source markets due to direct air access and proximity.

Bankoku Shinryokan Okinawa, a resort-style convention centre where the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa G8 Summit was held, regards China as a “big market”.

Yuko Shimozono, MICE coordinator of the venue, told TTGmice e-Weekly: “Most of our business from China are government meetings, with some involving officials from China, Japan and South Korea. While this (the Senkaku Island tussle) is unlikely to affect corporate meetings from China, we are starting to see some negative impact on government events from China. We suspect that Chinese government bodies that organise these meetings are thinking twice about coming to Japan.

While DMC Okinawa has not seen any cancellations or slow down in MICE bookings from China, Reiko Tokuda, a representative of the company, said “the situation is worrying”.

“Business from (Greater) China is still as usual for now, but you never know,” said Toshihide Ozaki, JTB Okinawa general manager-inbound.

“We were supposed to have a corporate group from Hong Kong on August 26, but the client cancelled it abruptly. No reason was given, and it could be due to (the escalation of events),” Ozaki said.

A wave of anti-Japanese protests over the Senkaku Islands dispute was held in various Chinese cities on August 19, and a Japanese ambassador was reportedly assaulted on August 27 in Beijing.

“I know we should diversify into other source markets (as a buffer against a potential dip in Chinese MICE business), but (Greater) China is such an important market because there are direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. We would love to strengthen our MICE business from South-east Asia, but the lack of direct air access is a stumbling block.”

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