Life is a journey of a self-discovery. I can’t believe how far I’ve come considering my childhood on the tiny Japanese island of Okinawa. After spending much of young adult life in the United States, however, my recent return to Okinawa brought me to terms with the importance of my heritage.
Okinawa consistently ranked as a number-one popular destination for the Japanese domestic tourist. In 2009, the prefecture recorded nearly 6 million visitors, close to that of Hawaii’s number. Surprisingly, during my tenure at the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB), public destination marketing organization, however, only 3 percent of tourists were international visitors. It is not understatement to say that Okinawa’s beauty is virtually unknown to the outside world.
I began to understand that Okinawa needed more people with sophisticated business acumen to effectively aid in municipal development on many occasions especially during promotional activities such as tradeshows and conferences. Fierce competition led by foreign investment resulted in the buyout of major hotel properties in Okinawa. I was fortunate to be able to sit in on meetings with highly energetic and extremely bright executives. They consistently demonstrated excellent entrepreneurship and I recognized that my college education had not prepared me to conduct business on the senior level. Small island economies such as Okinawa, tourism industry becomes the most important business, accounting for 20-70% of the current external receipts.
In an effort to strengthen the industry and with new policies known as “ Visit Okinawa Program” in fiscal year of 2010, the prefecture set a goal of attracting 10 million tourists and generating