TOKYO (majirox news) — Tourism in Japan has begun to show substantial gains following the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, which caused tourism to sharply decline, according to Zensuke Suzuki of the Japan Tourist Agency.
“After the earthquake, we saw the largest drop in tourism numbers we ever experienced,” Suzuki said.
More than 1.4 million Chinese visited Japan in 2010, and more than 200,100 had arrived in the first two months of this year, according to JTA.
In Asakusa, a district in Tokyo that has preserved the atmosphere of old Tokyo and is famous for its Sensoji Temple, which was built in the 7th century, there were only about 500 to 600 visitors each day during cherry blossom season. Before March 11, at least 3,000 people, including foreigners, would come every day at that time.
The good news is the trend in arrivals to Japan in May, June, July and August showed an increase in numbers despite nuclear worries. However, there was still a drop of about 50 percent for May, June, July and August, compared to 2010, noted Suzuki. The numbers for September is not out yet.
According to Jia-Liang Wang of Executive Travel in Tokyo, Chinese tourist groups started coming back during Japan’s Golden Week holidays in May.
“A cruise company brought a group of 1,700 Chinese tourists to Japan during the holidays,” he said. “The Japanese media said the first stop was the city of Osaka, and the mayor went to the port to welcome the group. Osaka even set up a temporary shopping center (tents) to sell Japanese-made goods. The staff had to work two hours overtime.”
“The group also went to Tokyo, robbing Akihabara. In 4 days, the group spent a lot of money on shopping. Very crazy.”
He noted that, these days, some Chinese feel the country is safe despite the nuclear problems. In addition, the “brave Chinese” are coming to Japan, especially to Tokyo, because there are many Chinese and other foreigners still living and working in Tokyo who feel safe.
The Internet also helped with public relations for the tourist industry. Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. and Topfour Corp. created Web sites in English, Chinese, and Korean to provide information about Japan. The JNTO sends out information through its Web site, Twitter, Facebook, IATA (International Air Transport Association), ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), and press releases saying, “Japan is safe.”
Chinese also come to Japan because domestic travel during the holidays is crowded.
“Domestic travel inside China totals about 250 million, including those going back to their home town to visit their friends and relatives during the holidays,” Wang said. “So trains, long-distance buses, and flight services are very, very busy.”
Meanwhile, he is busy planning tours to Japan for the 15-day Chinese New Year holidays in January.