Submit Press release  eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    


Japan: outbound travel recovers while inbound travel collapses

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Jun 19, 2011

SINGAPORE/BANGKOK (eTN) - For the few past weeks, Japanese officials have gone around the world trying to reassure foreign audiences that travel to Japan is safe despite negative reports still being regularly released about continuous problems affecting the Fukushima nuclear plant. A Japan Tourism Agency delegation was recently present at the IATA General Meeting in Singapore, while the Japan Association of Travel Agents and the Japan National Tourist Organization were officially invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand(TAT).

Except for Fukushima and Sendai - which are still suffering from the terrible tsunami consequences - Japan is again safe and can welcome all travelers. “We want to carry this strong message that life in most of the country is back to normal, not only in Tokyo but also in cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, or Fukuoka located far from the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear contamination. The government just decided to increase the tourism budget to US$75 million to re-launch the destination and show its commitment to a strong tourism industry,” explained Yamada Naoyoshi, Vice Commissioner for International Affairs at Japan Tourism Agency, during IATA. The message is now highlighted worldwide, even if it might come a little bit late. Japanese authorities’ inertia to communicate internationally during the first weeks following the catastrophe is likely to cost a high number of potential travelers to the country. “There were other priorities,” justify officials from the Japan Tourism Agency.

Japan welcomed in 2010 some 8.6 million travelers, a figure far below a previously expected target of 10 million foreign tourists. But since the March earthquake, tourism literally collapsed. According to first reports issued by JNTO, total arrivals to the country were down by 50% in March, by 62% in April, and again by 50% in May. Estimated arrivals show that 2.4 million travelers came during the first five months of 2011, down by a third over 2010. “We now think that we could only welcome 6 to 6.5 million international travelers this year,” estimated one of JNTO's directors in Singapore.

The permanent danger of possible radiation from Fukushima will continue to deter travelers for a long time, especially from Asia where safety remains always a sensitive issue. According to Yamada Naoyoshi, the Japanese authorities are working on programs with airlines and private tourism partners to show them the situation. "We are also continuously updating our website to provide the latest information to both the public and the trade,” added M. Naoyoshi.

There is, however, some good news on the horizon. Hong Kong tour operators recently resumed their activities to Japan followed by other tour operators’ associations from Southeast Asia, from China, and from Taiwan. M. Naoyoshi also hopes that Lady Gaga’s visit to Japan will further boost tourists’ confidence for the destination. Airlines such as All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have also promised to offer regularly attractive fares to visitors. “We think it will, however, take a year before we see a real recovery in overseas markets,” he told in Singapore.

Japan’s outbound market brings, however, a ray of hope in these gloomy days. After four to six weeks of restraint to honor and remember the victims of the earthquake and tsunami tragedy, Japanese are again traveling. JNTO figures point to a decline of 18% in March but only of 9% in April. Overseas travel for Japanese could already bounce back in May and June and translate finally into a slight decline in total travelers by year-end – around 5% according to JATA executives. “We should be back to 95% of our normal volume by July or August,” estimated during the Thailand Travel Mart a JATA team of delegates. JATA recently launched a campaign in Japan encouraging locals to venture again abroad under the banner “VWC – Visit World Campaign - 20 Million Travelers.” Meanwhile, both the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) support Japan’s recovery effort in tourism. WTTC will even host its annual summit next April in Tokyo.

Japan: outbound travel recovers while inbound travel collapses
Kyoto did not suffer of damages consequent to March 11 earthquake (Photo: Luc Citrinot)

Premium Partners