Tourism flatlines as visitors avoid Japan

Tourism flatlines as visitors avoid Japan

Foreign tourist numbers collapsing after March disasters: Call goes out for more Chinese tourists
Japan tourism is slumping
Empty rickshaws and their drivers wait for customers at a tourist spot in Tokyo.

Close on six months after the March 11 disasters hit northeast Japan, the official numbers for overseas tourists visiting the country look even bleaker than expected.

According to the Japan Tourism Agency -- a part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism -- spending by incoming visitors in the April-June quarter was down 46.9 percent on a year earlier.

Chinese cash

In total, the foreign tourist buck was worth an insignificant ¥121 billion ($1.6 billion) in the quarter, most of it coming from near neighbors in Asia.

Chinese tourists contributed ¥30 billion to the Japanese economy, while South Korea and Taiwan combined for a joint inflow of ¥33.5 billion.

On top of the quarterly financial data, July also saw absolute visitor numbers slump for the fifth month in a row -- down 36 percent from 2010 to 560,000.

Up front about Fukushima

In spite of being a government body, the Tourism Agency report didn’t mince its words in stating that authorities need to show more transparency about the Fukushima nuclear accident if they want to help rebuild confidence in traveling to Japan.

It also suggested relaxing visa rules to allow more Chinese tourists into the country would boost the bottom line as well.