A board of a rental car information center at Naha Airport shows all vehicles offered by rental car agencies are fully booked on Aug. 3. Maho Fukui NAHA Many tourists flocking to Okinawa Prefecture during the first restriction-free summer since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic in early 2020 are hitting another speed bump at the beginning of their vacations: no rental cars.
Car rental agencies are selling some of their fleets because the number of tourists has plummeted due to the prolonged Pandemic.
The prefecture is facing a shortage of rental vehicles because of the rise in visitor numbers.
On Aug. 3, a board of a rental car information center at Naha Airport showed that all car rental agencies were fully booked. A woman from Kobe looked at car rental agencies near Naha Airport through a booking website and discovered that all of the vehicles were fully booked.
She inquired to more than 10 companies. If they had available rentals, the price was nearly 20,000 yen $150 per day.
She gave up renting a car and traveled by taxi and bus around the prefecture. She said that the buses were nearly full, so she was worried about being unable to board them.
The Okinawa Rent-A-Car Association, which comprises 42 companies, said it had 28,000 cars as of July 2019 before the Pandemic, but had only 16,700 cars available as of June this year.
The association said rental companies have reduced the number of cars in their fleets to cut costs due to the prolonged pandemic.
Shiyoshi Yokota, association senior director, said it is usually difficult to book a car during the Bon holiday season in mid-August, but that is true for the entire month this year.
He said that people won't be able to book a car until the end of August.
Yokota said that companies want to secure new rental vehicles, but it is difficult because automakers are cutting production due to global semiconductor shortages.
There are many sightseeing spots that are hard to access through public transportation in Okinawa, a car-based society.
JTB Okinawa Corp., a travel agency, started operating a free shuttle bus service last month. The buses stop at Onnanoeki farmer's market the Nago city government building and other places in the northern part of the main island as well as famed hotels and beaches.
A tour operator said you can enjoy the tour without worrying about driving. The town of Motobu, where the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located, has five buses per day that stop at Ocean Expo Park and major hotels. The city of Miyakojima will also offer a bus service that tours sightseeing facilities from Aug. 10.
On July 26th, Okinawa Prefecture launched the Okinawa Norimono Tabi website, which provides information on buses and the monorail system from Naha Airport to major sightseeing spots.
The tourism promotion division said that visitors should know how convenient it is to travel here by public transportation.