Tourism bouncing back in Tohoku

JIJI

Tourism in the Tohoku region is showing signs of recovering from the March 2011 disasters as tour reservations for Golden Week returned to their 2010 levels, according to five major travel agencies.

Fewer tourists visited sightseeing spots in the region’s six prefectures last year because of a lack of up-to-date information on problems related to the disasters, and because of the fact that fewer people wanted to travel after the catastrophe.

But this year, the mood is more positive as many are eager to visit the region. In addition, cherry-blossom viewing tours have sold well thanks to the blooms opening slightly later than forecast.

Sales of tours by Nippon Travel Agency Co. to the Tohoku region during Golden Week in 2010 fell 90 percent from the previous year. This year, sales are 7 percent higher than they were two years ago.

Newly launched tours to visit sites in Fukushima Prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, have sold well, the company said.

This year Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. has received as many reservations for its Tohoku tours as it did in 2010. One of this year’s best-sellers is the cherry-blossom viewing tour, which saw reservations rise 20 percent.

Reservations for Tohoku tours have been 5 percent to 10 percent below the 2010 level at JTB Corp., Hankyu Travel International Co. and Toptour Corp., but customers are returning.

The Hiraizumi Tourism Association in Iwate Prefecture expects the town to attract 350,000 visitors during Golden Week, nearly 50,000 more than in past years, after a group of cultural assets there made the World Heritage list in June last year.