Fewer travelers putting Japan on itinerary

Kyodo News

Overseas visitors to Japan declined year on year for the third straight month in October, falling 5.9 percent to 739,100, according to an estimate Tuesday by the Japan National Tourist Organization.

It’s the longest consecutive drop since the four-month stretch from April to July 2003 during the SARS epidemic, JNTO officials said.

The organization blames the latest dropoff on the global financial crisis and the strong yen. The number of visitors from some countries has fallen by more than 10 percent.

The JNTO cast doubt on whether the government’s target of 9.15 million visitors this year can be reached.

Aiming to draw 10 million visitors by 2010, the government has been running the Visit Japan campaign and launched the Japan Tourism Agency in October.

But with the global economy in such rough shape, that goal may be out of reach. The decline in the number of visitors is likely to hit the economies of tourist spots, including hot spring resorts.

According to the JNTO survey, visitors from South Korea, the largest group to visit Japan, dropped 15.2 percent from the previous year to 188,800 in October, largely due to the won’s weakness against the yen. The second-largest drop was in the number of Americans. The 68,000 who came to Japan last month represented a 14.3 percent drop from the year before.

Visitors from Australia decreased 9.9 percent to 18,200, and Chinese visitors dropped 5 percent to 86,600, JNTO said.

Narita sets milestone

The number of travelers who have passed through Narita International Airport exceeded 700 million Tuesday, its operating company said.

The official 700 millionth traveler was Tomiko Nonomura, 55, of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, who was returning with her husband, Yasutaka, 55, from a trip to France and Germany to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

“I had never dreamed of becoming the 700 millionth traveler,” Nonomura said at a special ceremony.