by Jeff IorioDecember 1, 2012
Okinawa hosts 5.5 million visitors each year; tourism accounts for approximately $5 billion annually.•
The seaside Okinawa Convention Center,
the prefecture's largest meeting facility, is less than 10 miles from the airport. It features an exhibition hall, two conference rooms and a theater. The event hall can accommodate up to 5,000 guests.•
More than 200,000 died in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, one of World War II's bloodiest. The Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
commemorates the lives lost, regardless of nationality, and the Peace Memorial Museum provides an illuminating overview of events leading up to the battle.
Long hidden in the shadow of Japan's main island, Okinawa is stepping into the limelight. The prefecture, comprised of hundreds of islands spanning more than 600 square miles, saw a 50 percent rise in the number of business meetings and incentive trips in 2011 over the previous year. Naha Airport is Okinawa's only major transportation hub, but several Japanese cities have connecting flights, as do airports in Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan.
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Hotel news The newcomer on the hotel scene -- and the island's first five-star international resort -- is the Ritz Carlton, Okinawa, which opened in May 2012. The 79-room property features panoramic views of the East China Sea and is surrounded by the 18-hole championship Kise Country Club golf course. Among amenities are three restaurants and several spa treatment rooms, each offering views of the Yambaru Forest.
Set for a 2014 opening is the 346-room Hilton Okinawa Chatan, about 10 miles from Naha Airport. The hotel will feature a full-service spa and fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, a 5,700-square-foot function room and a 1,300-square-foot meeting space.
Also planned is a Four Seasons hotel in the capital, Naha, expected to debut in 2016.
For a truly off-the-grid experience, Hoshino Resorts unveiled Hoshinoya Okinawa, a luxury property that opened this year on Okinawa's Taketomi Island (pop. 350), at the southern tip of the archipelago. Set against a physical landscape that has remained largely unchanged for centuries, the 48-villa resort offers modern comforts, including spa treatment rooms and Wi-Fi. Restaurants feature fresh local ingredients that have helped Okinawans achieve a life expectancy of more than 80 years, the longest in the world.
Other options Among other choices for groups, the 352-room Okinawa Harborview Crowne Plaza has three banquet rooms, the largest of which can host 1,000 people.
The 260-room Mercure Okinawa in Naha overlooks the Kokuba River and sits just a few miles from Shuri Castle, which dates from the early 1300s and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel, a one-minute walk from the monorail, offers two meeting rooms, each hosting groups of up to 160.
The 227-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Naha is adjacent to a monorail stop 11 minutes from the airport. During downtime, visitors can take a 10-minute stroll to Kokusai Dori, the main shopping district on the island.
The 392-room Busena Terrace is a posh spot for incentives. About 90 minutes from Naha Airport, the resort offers indoor and outdoor pools, a private beach and a spa. Meeting space accommodates up to 200, theater-style.