Beijing-Naha direct flight resumes in September, echoing Okinawan governor's request during China visit
Published: Aug 20, 2023 11:28 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Air China

Photo: Courtesy of Air China

The Beijing-Naha direct flight will be resumed in mid-September with a simplified Chinese visa application procedure for people in Okinawa. Experts said this reflected China's response to the appeal of Okinawan Governor Denny Tamaki, who expressed a wish to boost exchanges between Okinawa and China during his visit in early July.

Air China will resume the direct flight between Beijing and Naha on September 17, after the flight was suspended in February 2020 due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The Okinawan newspaper, The Ryukyu Shimpo, reported this on Saturday. This resumed direct flight will be the second one between Okinawa and the Chinese mainland after China Eastern resumed the Shanghai-Naha route in July.

With the resumption of the Beijing-Naha route, we hope that people-to-people exchanges between Okinawa Prefecture and China will become even closer, said Consul General of China in Fukuoka, Lü Guijun, on Twitter on Friday.

According to the Consulate-General of China in Fukuoka, starting from August 11, the procedure for Okinawans applying for Chinese visas will be simplified. They won't need to appear in person at the Consulate General in Fukuoka if they apply through a travel agency.

"The resumption of the Naha-Beijing direct flight and the simplified visa application procedure for Okinawan people can be seen as results achieved from Danny Tamaki's visit to China. The Chinese side has responded to his requests. These measures will assist Okinawans in traveling to China, which is significant for promoting two-way cultural exchanges between Okinawa and China," Yuki Izumikawa, a researcher at the Institute of Economics and Environment of Okinawa International University, told the Global Times.

Before his visit to China in early July, Tamaki told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that he hoped for relaxed visa policies for Okinawan tourists visiting China and an early resumption of direct flights to further develop multifaceted exchanges, including tourism and the economy.

Although exchanges between China and Okinawa have gradually resumed, before traveling from Okinawa to China, Okinawans still needed to apply for visas at the Consulate-General of China in Fukuoka Prefecture in the Kyushu region of Japan. This added to the travel burden since Fukuoka is distant from Okinawa island, Tamaki explained.

Izumikawa mentioned that as the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays approach in late September and early October, Okinawans are looking forward to and warmly welcoming more Chinese tourists.

On August 10, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced a third round of resumption of outbound group tour services to 78 countries and regions, including the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, and most European countries. This expands the scope from 60 to 138 countries and regions. Outbound group tour services to these countries will be resumed by all national travel agencies and online travel companies.