Fewer Chinese to visit Japan amid ongoing tensions

Updated: 2014-01-08 01:35

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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Fewer Chinese to visit Japan amid ongoing tensions 

Visitors enjoy a flower parade at Disneyland in Tokyo on Jan 1 to celebrate the New Year. Ma Ping / Xinhua News Agency

Even as many Chinese have begun to make travel plans for the Spring Festival holiday, tourism sector insiders said Chinese tourists' interest in Japan remains stagnant due to the two countries' political tensions.

"Given that the number of overseas trips made by Chinese people had substantially increased over the past several years, the decline in the number of Chinese tourists going to Japan was remarkable and obvious in 2013," Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy's international tourism development institute, said on Tuesday.

Chinese made nearly 2 million trips to Japan in 2012, an increase of more than 20 percent compared with 2011, she said.

In contrast, the number of trips by Chinese to Japan from January to the end of November in 2013 was 1.7 million, far fewer than that of the same period last year, she said, citing statistics from the China National Tourist Administration.

"Excluding the political rows, all aspects were favorable for Chinese tourists to travel in Japan," Jiang said. "The yuan keeps appreciating while the Japanese yen continues to depreciate. Japan has been relaxing its visa procedures since 2009 and regularly promotes sightseeing itineraries designed for Chinese tourists."

However, Japan will not see a rapid rebound in Chinese visitors unless Tokyo properly addresses problems created by its politics, she added.

That perspective was shared by Yang Xiufang, manager of international cooperation at China Swan International Tours. He said his company saw a sharp drop in group tours for Chinese and Japanese travelers in 2013.

Yang, whose company specializes in trips to Japan, said he is not optimistic about Sino-Japanese tourism in 2014 because "no one is able to predict what will happen in international politics".

In 2013, Chinese travelers made more than 97 million overseas trips, the administration said. The enormous flow of Chinese visitors has boosted the economies of major tourist destinations, which saw Chinese guests' spending more than $102 billion in their shops, restaurants and parks in 2012.

Shao Qiwei, head of the administration, has estimated that an unprecedented 100 million overseas trips will be made by Chinese citizens in 2014.

Hideki Ijichi, chief representative of the Japan National Tourism Organization's Beijing office, told China Daily that about 1.3 million Chinese tourists went to Japan in 2013, a year-on-year decrease of nearly 10 percent.

"We will do our best to bring more Chinese travelers to Japan in 2014 and believe it is an irreversible trend that more and more Chinese people will come to visit Japan, no matter what happens" between the two nations, he said.

"What we keep telling Chinese tourists is that they will enjoy a safe and comfortable trip to Japan, which offers the best experience to visitors."

Zheng Xin contributed to this story.