• Kyodo, Staff Report

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Reservations for summer trips to Kyushu are growing rapidly as tour agencies and hotels offer large discounts backed by government subsidies aimed at helping the quake-damaged island recover.

A website that started selling discount tickets Wednesday for hotels in Kumamoto Prefecture received so much traffic it became inaccessible, and all were sold out early Friday.

The strong earthquakes in Kyushu in April caused the cancellation of tours and school trips to the region, prompting the central government to provide subsidies to travel agencies for discount tours to cushion the blow.

The marketing blitz for tours to Kyushu’s seven prefectures began on July 1.

At the Rakuten Travel site, all discount coupons usable for tours to Kyushu had sold out by July 10. In addition, reservations for tours between July and September are up 30 percent from a year ago, with tours to quake-hit Kumamoto surging 40 percent and those to neighboring Oita leaping by 90 percent, Rakuten said.

Nippon Travel Agency’s online discount offerings had almost sold out as of Thursday, while Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. said its discount hotel tickets had all been sold. Hankyu Express International Co. said reservations for Kyushu tours scheduled by the end of August were up 20 percent from the previous year.

The Kumamoto Prefectural Government on Wednesday began selling hotel tickets at a 70 percent discount online, but its website became temporarily inaccessible as people rushed to buy, prompting complaints from some consumers.

As of 2 a.m. Friday, all tickets had been sold, the website said.

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