Anxious travelers cancel bookings, spooked by deadly Osaka quake

by Magdalena Osumi and Sarah Suk

Staff Writers

Monday morning’s deadly earthquake in Osaka has affected tourism in the region, with travelers at home and overseas canceling bookings in the affected areas.

At least four people were killed and hundreds more injured in the quake.

The operator of a hotel in central Kyoto said Tuesday that the quake has cost the firm some ¥4.4 million following cancellations of bookings for about 300 rooms. The reservations included several school trips to the city that had been planned this week. The hotel has 408 rooms.

“We’re operating as usual, but many people fear for their safety because Osaka and Takatsuki (the site of the quake’s epicenter) are nearby,” said a staffer who requested his name be withheld. “I hope everything will get back to normal within a week, but reports about damage in the area have been hurting (the business) more than I thought.”

“We may see more cancellations today and tomorrow,” the staffer added.

The operator requested that the name of the hotel be withheld out of concern that information on cancellations could further affect business.

A room management employee at another Kyoto hotel reported a wave of cancellations and said some customers were fearful of aftershocks. “Only today we received about 107 cancellation requests, and as many as 602 yesterday,” he said.

However, he said the firm has seen some new customers seeking accommodation after being stranded between their homes and their travel destinations.

In the heart of the city of Osaka, Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka, which has 1,042 rooms, saw roughly 100 cancellations each for Monday and Tuesday, according to Chie Takahashi, who manages public relations.

She said the figures include reservations by foreign guests.

Disruptions to transportation networks also hit tour operators. Osaka-based tour operator Hankyu Travel International Co. has been busy responding to a number of inquiries from customers, including non-Japanese travelers.

“Only areas close (to the epicenter) have been severely affected by the quake, but disruption in transportation has affected tours, as halts or delays of transport carriers make travel physically impossible,” said the firm’s spokeswoman.

The transportation network “collapsed for the entire day… making it impossible to travel, so many people have canceled their trips,” said Reiko Tatsumi, a spokeswoman for tour operator Kinki Nippon Tourist Co.’s Kansai bureau. “But most firms have resumed their services so everything should soon get back to normal.”

Keihan Bus Corp., which operates bus tours of Kyoto and shuttle bus services connecting Japan’s ancient capital with Kansai International Airport, suspended two sightseeing routes and about a third of its airport buses on Monday due to the quake.

“We’ve had some inquiries from individual customers, but it’s not like they’re canceling reservations one after another,” said public relations officer Hiroshi Takagawa.

He said the company does not have a tally of how many people were affected by the suspension of services because there are many who do not make prior reservations.

But he noted that some who had planned to go on the bus tours may have had to give up their plans because trains and other transportation options were suspended on Monday. Bus operations returned to normal on Tuesday, he said.