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Tourism in Japan, a year after Fukushima

Tourism in Japan, a year after Fukushima

Philippe Bourget - 2012-03-07

11th March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami struck the country, provoking the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The Japanese tourist industry was hard hit at a moment when it was thriving. It is now struggling to get back to its former strength.

It was a human, ecological and economic disaster of epic proportions. With the tragic sequence of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan experienced one of the worst moments in its history.

One immediate effect was the complete collapse of the number of tourists visiting the country. Whilst 8.6 million people travelled to Japan in 2010, only 6.2 million did so last year - a decrease of 27.8%.

Twelve months later, the tourist market is still devastated despite a slight improvement at the beginning of the year amongst specialist travel agents. For example, the decrease has seen 60% less bookings in France in November and December 2011 compared to the same months in 2010.

The situation regarding health hazards is now largely under control. Leaking reactors have stopped. Apart from the contaminated area in the north-east, life in Japan is back to normal and Tokyo has long since welcomed back its business travelers. Asian holidaymakers are also back, particularly Koreans, Taiwanese and especially the Chinese.

Japan is now in fact one of the preferred destinations for the Chinese. In November  92,300 Chinese nationals visited the Japanese archipelago, an increase of 35% from the previous year. These excellent figures are in part explained by the simplification of visa procedures, attracting the neighbouring country’s middle classes.

The only uncertainty is the safety of food.  Yet at the same time the country continues to market its home produce such as its fruits, vegetables, fish and mushrooms. Time heals, but Japan will have to wait some time before it gets back the same level of tourism, especially with the stronger yen being detrimental to Western wallets.
 
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