Centrair gearing up for a busy summer of travel

Chunichi Shimbun

Starting in late March, the number of international flights at Central Japan International Airport, also known as Centrair, will return to what they were before the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, reaching 294 per week when airlines switch to their summer timetables.

This is because carriers based in East Asia, including China, South Korea and Hong Kong, will increase their regular flights to Centrair in expectations that more foreign tourists will be heading to the Chubu region, in addition to Japanese business and vacation travelers.

Compared with the winter schedules that kicked in last October, the number of flights will increase by 31 a week, the biggest rise since the airport opened in 2005.

International flights to Centrair have been declining after hitting a peak of 337 during the 2007 summer schedule.

“The recovery trend is the results of diligent efforts made by local governments and business communities. We would also like to increase flights operating between cities in Southeast Asia and our airport,” Centrair President Hiroshi Kawakami said recently.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, foreign visitors to all of Japan fell 27.8 percent in 2011 from the year before due to the March 11 natural disasters and nuclear crisis.

However, the numbers have been rising since November at a higher rate than the previous year.

This year, JNTO expects the number of foreign visitors will exceed the record set in 2010.

Most airlines serving Centrair will be adding new fights to their existing routes.

Cathay Pacific Airways will increase runs to and from Hong Kong to 21 per week from 17. The four new flights will depart Hong Kong at 10:20 a.m., providing ample time for sightseeing on the day of arrival.

China Airlines will offer more flights between Taipei and Centrair, while also launching service between Shizuoka and Taipei with three flights a week and between Toyama and Taipei with two flights a week starting in April.

“We would like to develop demand for tours in the Chubu region by connecting other local airports”, said an official of China Airlines’ Nagoya branch.

The Chubu region is well known by foreign travelers compared with the “golden route” destinations: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

However, in the face of the March 11 disasters, airlines have stepped up their sales efforts in cooperation with the region’s local governments and businesses.

“Chubu’s potential charms as a travel destination have finally and gradually been recognized. The big key to success from this spring is whether the whole region will be able to cooperate to accommodate foreign tourists”, Kawakami, Centrair’s president, said.

The airlines are pinning high hopes on a joint campaign with the Chubu District Transport Bureau dubbed the “Shoryudo (Rising Dragon Path) project.”

By making a path running from the southern Tokai region to northern Hokuriku resembling a rising dragon, the project is designed to promote the entire Chubu region to Asian tourists.

All of the restaurant menus in the airport will be available in English, Chinese and Korean starting in late March. Airport signs will also carry multilingual translations to help welcome a wider range of foreign visitors.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Feb. 14.