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Tourism helps Japan-China ties, but needs improvements

BEIJING, China - Tourism, a crucial but unofficial way for Chinese and Japanese to know more about each other, needs improving to strengthen bilateral ties during the post-earthquake era, according to

Tourism helps Japan-China ties, but needs improvements

BEIJING, China – Tourism, a crucial but unofficial way for Chinese and Japanese to know more about each other, needs improving to strengthen bilateral ties during the post-earthquake era, according to the annual Japan-China Joint Opinion Survey over seven years.

The surveys show a steady increase in people who are willing to visit the other country, this year reaching 75.8 percent of Chinese and 78.4 percent of Japanese. But politics and disasters have set up obstacles to their actually making the trip.

* In September 2010, a Chinese trawler and Japanese coast guard patrol vessels collided near the Diaoyu Islands. The next month, the number of Chinese visitors to Japan dropped from 138,000 to 106,000 after nine months of increases, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

* On March 11 this year, Japan was hit by a major earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. Visitors from China fell by 50 percent the next month, with the drop from all foreign visitors hitting 73 percent, the organization said.

As Japan’s winter-sports season approaches, the latest numbers on incoming visitors indicate many resorts are doing far better than expected. Those numbers are driven in large part by tourists from China, Japan’s second-biggest market after South Korea.

Chinese tourism to Japan in November jumped by 35 percent from a year earlier, marking the first increase since the March 11 disasters and hinting that a recovery may be near, according to the tourism organization.

To encourage visits by its neighbor, Japan reduced visa restrictions for Chinese on Aug 10 and doubled the maximum stay to 30 days. And airfare between the two countries is only about half what it was a year ago, said Dong Xiang, a manager at China Travel Service Head Office in Beijing.

However, he said, fewer and smaller aircraft are being used, reducing flight capacity.

“China-Japan tourism has great potential” because of the countries’ proximity, he said. “Even though about 2.6 million Japanese visit China every year, far more visit Europe or the US.”

Cultural attractiveness is more important than price in boosting tourism, Dong said, but he thinks the media can do a better job in helping Chinese and Japanese understand each other’s cultures.

For example, he said, a documentary about the Silk Road that was co-produced by China Central Television and Japanese NHK TV attracted many Japanese to China in the late 1980s.

“Chinese mainland media cover much less about Japanese culture than Hong Kong and Taiwan do,” Dong said. “I believe that if the cultural closeness is improved, political instability will just be temporary.”

However, both Chinese and Japanese people doubt the credibility and efforts of the media, according to the survey.

Among intellectuals, 32.6 percent of Chinese and 46 percent of Japanese questioned the objectivity of their domestic media reports. Among ordinary people, 57.8 percent of Chinese and 76.3 percent of Japanese believed news coverage was unbalanced in the other country.

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