Worries about quakes, radiation deter Asia tourists

JIJI

Asian tourists remain concerned about big earthquakes and radiation in Japan, although many want to make trips to the country, a survey by the Development Bank of Japan indicates.

But the longer Asian tourists spend in Japan, the less anxiety they tend to show about quakes and radiation, the government-owned financial institution said Wednesday. “It is important to increase repeat visitors to Japan.”

The survey covered 4,000 adults in South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia who have made trips abroad. The survey was done by Internet in late October.

Japan was the most favored travel destination among respondents in five economies, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand, according to the survey.

Even in China, Japan was as popular a destination as Australia or Europe, although Sino-Japanese relations have been strained by a row over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that China also claims, the survey showed.

Respondents praised Japan for its scenery, culture and history, unique food and hot springs. Negative factors that were noted included the language barrier and high costs, as well as worries about big quakes such as the one in March 2011 and the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Among respondents who had never visited Japan, 70 percent of South Koreans said they were concerned about the health impact of radioactive contamination. A similar answer was given by 50 percent of respondents in mainland China who have never been to Japan.

But the proportion fell below 60 percent for South Korean respondents who had visited Japan at least twice and to slightly above 30 percent for people from mainland China with similar travel experience in Japan.

The DBJ will use the results to work out proposals to respond to foreign tourists’ concerns and utilize tourism resources better, bank officials said.

Separately Wednesday, JTB Corp. said the number of people in Japan who will make overnight or longer trips during the yearend and New Year’s holiday period is expected to top 30 million for the first time in six years.

The number is expected to increase 1.3 percent from a year before to 30.028 million, the leading travel agency said. The holiday period covers Dec. 23 through Jan. 3.

Despite a weak economy, Japan sees brisk demand both for domestic and overseas trips thanks to relatively long holidays of up to nine days and the yen’s strength. The number of people traveling abroad is expected to rise 0.3 percent to 657,000, hitting the second-highest level on record on the back of the higher yen.

Nevertheless, the number of travelers to mainland China is projected to drop 25.3 percent amid heightened tensions between the two countries over the Senkaku isle row. Travelers to South Korea are seen to decrease 9.6 percent, due to a dispute between Tokyo and Seoul over Sea of Japan islands called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, which controls them.

For overall Asian destinations, travelers are forecast to fall 5.3 percent.

Long-distance overseas trips are popular as travelers are expected to rise 13.7 percent for Europe, 9.8 percent for Hawaii and 9.1 percent for North America.

The number of people heading to domestic destinations is estimated to grow 1.3 percent to 29.371 million. In addition to Hokkaido and Okinawa, popular destinations include Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, which will celebrate a once-in-two-decades rebuilding next autumn. Also popular is the Aizu area of Fukushima Prefecture, which will be highlighted in an annual drama series on NHK next year.

Average spending per trip is likely to grow 0.4 percent to ¥30,800 for domestic travel and 2.6 percent to ¥207,000 for overseas travel.