Singapore travellers can now fly directly to Okinawa, Japan's southern-most prefecture, as part of a tie-up between Changi Airport and the Okinawan authorities to boost tourism and demand for air travel on both sides.
From this month until January, SilkAir will operate 12 flights while Jetstar Asia will launch two services to test the market, with an eye on building enough demand to sustain regular services.
Travel packages, including food, accommodation and a return ticket for example, are going for about $1,500 for a stay of five days and four nights. The flight to Okinawa takes about five hours.
At a press conference yesterday, Mr Yoshihisa Kawakami, vice-governor of Okinawa's prefectural government, said he is confident airlines, including Japanese carriers, will find it worthwhile to offer regular flights.
Okinawa is served by 11 foreign airlines, all from North-east Asia.
Speaking through a translator, Mr Kawakami said: "With Singapore the natural hub in South-east Asia and indeed a global hub, we hope to be able to also attract travellers from other countries, for example, Malaysia and Indonesia, to fly to Singapore and onwards to Okinawa."
Changi Airport Group is happy to support the push. Said its senior vice-president for market development, Mr Lim Ching Kiat: "With such initiatives, there is always some commercial risk involved so, as and where we see value, we will come in and support like-minded partners including airlines that are keen to develop new markets and destinations."
Ms Sylvia Tan, vice-president for marketing and public relations at CTC Travel, said that demand for travel to Okinawa is seasonal, with interest during the school holidays and year-end season.
"But we do find that interest and awareness are growing and this could eventually support all-year-round flights," she said.