Lunar New Year behind 2.4% drop in January foreign visitors to Japan

Kyodo

The number of foreign visitors dropped 2.4 percent in January from a year earlier to an estimated 669,000, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.

Visitors from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia decreased because the Lunar New Year holidays fell in February this year instead of January like last year, the JNTO said Tuesday.

The number of visitors from China plunged 47.6 percent to 72,500, the biggest drop since September, when the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, claimed by China, flared up.

Visitors from Taiwan declined 11.6 percent and those from Hong Kong fell 35.6 percent.

“The decrease in Chinese visitors wasn’t influenced by the timing of the lunar new year only, but also by the negative impact from the Senkaku issue,” said Norifumi Ide, a commissioner in the Japan Tourism Agency. He said he expects the impact to decrease gradually.

By country and region, the largest number of visitors in January came from South Korea, at 234,500, up 35.2 percent amid the yen’s depreciation.

The number of visitors from Australia hit a new high of 31,700, up 42.6 percent, thanks to the popularity of skiing tours, while those from Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam also reached new levels for the month.

India tourism pitch

STAFF REPORT

India aims to increase the growth rate of Japanese tourists to 25 percent from the current 15 percent through public relations activities, said an executive of the Indian tourism authority who was recently visiting Japan.

The number of Japanese visitors to India rose 15 percent to 193,525 in 2011 from 168,019 in 2010, Shri Dewan, the secretary of the tourism ministry in India, said in a presentation at a news conference at a Tokyo hotel Monday evening.

“Now the growth is 15 percent. My target is 25 percent growth,” said Dewan, who came to promote tourism in India to the Japanese travel industry.

“I want Japanese people to know that India is not just a hot place. Some parts are very cold. Others are very hot,” Dewan said.

Ladakh, in the Himalayas, has seen temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees, whereas the mercury reaches 50 degrees in other parts of India, he said.