Thinking big for 2017 as Routes Asia heads to Japan

Routes Asia will be held in Japan for the first time in its 15-year history when it takes place in Okinawa next year.

The 2017 event will be hosted by Okinawa Prefecture and supported by Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau. Okinawa is one of the most popular leisure destinations in Japan - more than seven million tourists travel there every year to enjoy the subtropical climate, tranquil beaches, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and unique culture.

The Routes Asia event being held in Japan presents a big opportunity. Japan has the third highest GDP in the world of £3 trillion, as well a huge potential market – 120 million people reside in the country. Japan is aiming to serve as the gateway that ties together Asia and the rest of the world, and hosting the event will help the country to achieve this.

Takeshi Onaga, Okinawa Prefectural Government Governor, says: “Okinawa is a destination on the rise. The prefecture forms the southern-most islands of Japan which attract the world’s travel industry. We have the ruins of Shuri Castle, a crystal clear ocean, beautiful beaches and coral reefs. Gorgeous dance performances and the finest Okinawan cuisine will definitely meet the satisfaction of Routes Asia delegates. We are looking forward to meeting them in 2017.”

Investment in local infrastructure means that Okinawa’s tourism industry will continue to grow. The regional Ishigaki Airport was replaced by New Ishigaki Airport in 2013 to provide a longer runway for larger aircraft. Naha Airport is carrying out terminal expansion works as part of its aim to become a gateway between Asia and Japan, and a second runway will be built by 2020.

Routes Asia will enable Okinawa to capitalise on the rapid growth predicted for the Asia-Pacific aviation market over the next two decades. International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures predict passenger numbers in the region will have overtaken both North America and Europe by the end of the next decade, and nearly half of all air travel will touch the region by 2034 - a total of 2.9 billion journeys.

Expectations for the first Japanese Routes Asia 2017 are high. This year’s Routes Asia event in Manila in the Philippines drew more than 900 delegates from 110 airlines and 220 airports and destinations, and the organisers hope to achieve even higher registration numbers in 2017.

Flight times between Okinawa and most East Asian cities are within four hours, making it relatively easy to travel to. Being within this four-hour radius opens up a potential market for two billion passengers. Direct flights are available from Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai.

Neil Mulligan, senior future host manager at Routes, says: “As the first Routes Asia to be held in Japan, Okinawa will bring Routes to a new and growing market. Okinawa is a beautiful destination and the expansion of its airports means that there is plenty of scope for new air services.

“We cannot wait to work with such an incredibly dedicated and professional team, who put so much effort into their bid document. We feel Okinawa is a great cross between a business and beach destination,” he concludes.

Akimitsu Miyazato, senior specialist at Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, adds: “It is our honour to host Routes Asia 2017. I hope a lot of delegates join us for the event and enjoy our nature, culture and people - there is a lot to see in Okinawa.”

Routes Asia is the only air service development forum for the Asian region, bringing together leading airlines, airports and their stakeholders to discuss new flights since 2003.

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This article is modified from an original feature that appeared in...

ROUTES NEWS - ISSUE 6, 2016 

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