Tourism recovering in Japan
Reports from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) show the country had 686,600 foreign visitors in June, up 1.4% from June 2010. The earthquake had a seriously negative affect on tourism to Japan – only 295,800 people visited Japan in April 2011, a drop of 62.5% from the year before. And, despite a gradual recovery, only 6,2 million people visited overall in 2011, down 27.8% from 2010 – the worst rate of decline on record.
“Having the 2012 [World Travel & Tourism Council Global] summit in Japan certainly helped show the world that Japan was ready, willing and able to welcome back visitors,” said Kylie Clark of the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
“Having delegates travel from Tokyo to Sendai on Hayabusa (the bullet train which had to be suspended after the earthquake) and staying in the city, sent a clear message that even the areas in the disaster zone were ready and waiting to welcome back visitors.
“We think many people have now realised that Japan is ready and wanting to welcome visitors, so people are again feeling comfortable to book holidays in Japan.”
It is believed that the fact that more Asian nations are travelling abroad has contributed to the increase in foreign visitors to Japan, as well as three new budget airlines flying to Japan and more flying routes to the country, including old routes altered to now include Japan.
The increase has also been put down to a surge in Chinese visitors, numbering up to 129,000, a 25% increase from June 2010, as more large cruise ships from China are docking in Japan. Japan also relaxed tourist visa regulations for individual Chinese travellers last September, and the government began issuing multiple-entry visas to Thai nationals in June; Thai visitors have increased by nearly 40%.
However, South Korean visitors were down 15.1%, French visitors by 10.2% and German tourists by 12.3%. This was thought to be due to concerns over the Fukushima nuclear accident last year and the yen’s strength in comparison with the won and the euro.
The main nationalities visiting Japan were South Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese, almost certainly because of their proximity. Within Europe, the country with the highest number of visitors to Japan was the UK, with 11,400 Brits visiting Japan in June (34% up on last year). However, British visitors to Japan still aren’t quite back to 2010 levels, and were still down 5.6% last month.
Foreign visitor totals for the first six months of 2012 were down 3.6% from 2010, but most markets have essentially recovered, and the government’s target for 2012 is nine million foreign visitors.