National

Foreign tourist numbers top record for second straight month in Japan

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

The number of foreign visitors to Japan in April hit a single-month record of 2.08 million, topping the 2 million mark for the second month in a row, the Japan National Tourism Organization announced Wednesday.

The statistics show that the inbound tourism boom is continuing despite concerns about the slowdown in the Chinese economy and a series of quakes that have rattled Kumamoto and other areas of the Kyushu region since April 14.

Officials say the continued expansion of flight routes and port calls by cruise ships are contributing to the trend.

Also, the reopening on April 16 of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, whose snow-covered landscape is popular among inbound tourists, as well as the cherry blossom season, helped push the figures up, officials said.

By country, visitors from China continued to constitute the largest group, with 515,000 people. It was followed by 384,000 from Taiwan, 354,000 from South Korea and 131,000 from Thailand. Record monthly arrivals were logged from 12 markets, including Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India and France, according to the JNTO data.

The organization noted, however, that the Kumamoto quakes’ impact on tourism will likely start to show in the coming months, as tours and airlines to Kumamoto and Oita from South Korea have been canceled in the wake of the two major tremors that killed nearly 50 people and at one time saw more than 100,000 people displaced.

The Japan Tourism Agency said it plans to offset any negative impact by stepping up overseas promotions and issuing state-subsidized hotel vouchers through which travelers can travel to the region more cheaply.