National

Suga pledges support for Okinawa's virus-rocked tourism industry

Jiji

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Sunday promised to provide assistance to Okinawa Prefecture's tourism industry, which has been hit by a slump in visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Naha, Suga met with officials of local economic organizations and received requests for assistance, including measures to maintain employment.

The requests "will be reflected in the upcoming economic stimulus measures," Suga said, referring to the need for financial assistance and subsidies.

Suga also exchanged opinions with representatives of the Okinawa tourism and financial industries.

Before COVID-19 struck, 10 million tourists visited Okinawa annually.

In February this year, the number of tourists sank 23.5 percent from a year before. The March figure is likely to be even weaker.

Suga also visited Kokusai-dori, Naha's busy commercial street, where many stores are suffering sales drops.

"We must help the (Okinawa) tourism and other industries achieve a V-shaped recovery after the virus is contained," Suga told reporters. "We'll prepare large-scale assistance."

Suga also attended a ceremony to mark the recent opening of Naha Airport's second runway. He is minister in charge of measures to mitigate the impact of U.S. military bases on the prefecture.

His visit to Naha preceded the prefecture's assembly election in June.

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