• Kyodo News


Despite recent terrorist attacks overseas, including the bombing of a packed disco on Bali and the hostage-taking incident in a Moscow theater, more and more Japanese are traveling abroad.

The Japan Association of Travel Agents said overseas travel booked for December is up 1.4 times over last year, when the figure plunged due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The figure also translates into a more than 90 percent recovery from the 2000 level.

JATA attributes the rise in the number of overseas travelers, especially those who will spend the yearend holiday season abroad, to longer-than-usual holidays and an increase in the number of flights to other parts of Asia, thanks in part to the opening of a second runway at New Tokyo International Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture.

The nation’s largest travel agency, JTB Corp., said about 2.1 times more Japanese are expected to visit China during the coming holiday season than at the same time last year.

Package tours to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day from the Great Wall are particularly popular, a JTB official said.

Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. said its sales of China tours jumped 97 percent over the previous year, while those to Europe increased 43 percent.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry’s Overseas Security Information Center are busy answering inquiries from travelers wanting to know what countries are safe to visit.

“We tell them to be on their guard because there is no safe place anywhere,” one official said.

“Japanese travelers are often crime victims because they are unguarded and always carry valuables with them,” the official warned.

In April, the Foreign Ministry improved its overseas safety information system. The four-level ranking system is available to travelers via the Internet, fax and phone.

Bali is currently ranked at the second-lowest level in the system. Previously, the ministry advised travel agents via directives to postpone tours at this level. But the ministry has come to respect travel agents’ own judgment, and more and more agents are again selling tours to the Indonesian resort island.

“Sales of Bali tours have begun to pick up,” a JATA official said. “The situation differs greatly between resort districts and urban districts within the same island.”

The Foreign Ministry’s Division for Prevention of Terrorism advises overseas travelers to collect information on the local situation and ask travel agents what security measures they have taken. But some are not necessarily aware of the importance of finding out information about their destinations.

According to a survey conducted by the nonprofit Japan Cross Cultural Association, only 9.9 percent of 1,000 people polled knew about the Overseas Security Information Center at the Foreign Ministry.

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