Japan active to restore tourist industry, receiving two Chinese tour groups

13:12, April 29, 2011      

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Japan has been active to restore quake-shattered tourism industry, receiving two Chinese tour groups of about 50 people who arrived in Kyushu and Kansai regions Friday, the first group travel to Japan from Chinese mainland since the March 11 catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.

One group of 41 people from Xi'an, including journalists, tour conductors and their families, will visit Kyushu for six days, and the other group of 10 from Beijing will tour Kansai for four days, according to the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA).

They were greeted by JTA and local officials and welcome committees at the airports, as well as given souvenirs, suggesting Japan's desire to see the resumption of Chinese tourists visiting the nation, who are regarded as the biggest-spending among foreign visitors.

Inbound tourists to Japan have been plummeting since the quake and tsunami, as concerns are growing that radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant could pose risks to human health. Frequent aftershocks also scared away some others.

Foreign visitors in March plunged 50 percent compared with the same period last year, with thousands of hotel reservations being called off. From Hokkaido to Okinawa, famous tourist spots popular with domestic and foreign visitors were deserted in the wake of the twin disasters.

Japan has been proactive to restore its tourist industry. At a recent press conference, Hiroshi Mizohata Commissioner of JTA, said the agency has resolved to make an utmost effort to bring back the vitality to Japan based on the "Tourism Oriented Nation."

In early April, Mizohata traveled to China and South Korea, meeting government officials, media and travel agents. The two countries made up about 40 percent of all foreign tourists visiting Japan in 2009.

"We want to tell them that there are still many beautiful places in Japan that were not devastated by the earthquake and are far away from Fukushima, and assure them they will be safe in Japan," Mizohata said.

Along with government efforts, chain hotels suffering an occupancy drop are also trying to attract customers.

According to Mark Holguin, senior vice president of Solare Hotels & Resort, about 14,000 room nights have been canceled in March since the earthquake and tsunami. Of the cancellations, 6, 300, or around 45 percent were made by Chinese nationals.

The company has sent people to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong to make sales calls and invite media and travel agencies to visit Okinawa and Hokkaido.

"We have been working very aggressively and it is starting to work," Holguin told Xinhua, adding that reservations in May have started to increase.

Adding to the positive note, Shinkansen bullet train services on the disaster-stricken Tohoku Shinkansen line fully resumed Friday between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori for the first time in 50-days since the mega earthquake and tsunami.

The resumption of services on the first day of Japan's so- called Golden Week holiday season is expected to bring back tourists to the disaster-hit northeastern region of Tohoku as well as stimulate reconstruction activities there.

On the popular Rakuten website's travel page, a large number of popular Onsen hotels in the Tohoku region are shown to be fully booked during the Golden Week holiday.

The restoration of the bullet train service also means a 2,000- kilometer shinkansen network has been completed throughout the country's main islands of Honshu and Kyushu -- from Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost prefecture on Honshu, to Kagoshima, the southernmost prefecture on Kyushu in the southwest.

Source: Xinhua
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