(Yicai) Aug. 17 -- The first Chinese tour group in three years to Japan arrived on Aug. 14, after China included Japan in its latest batch of countries to be reopened to group tours since the pandemic started.
The group from Beijing headed straight for the hot spring resort Hakone on arrival.
“We are very happy to see them,” Yasufumi Yamada, head of the Shanghai office of the Japan National Tourism Organization, told Yicai.
“The Japanese tourism industry have been looking forward to this for a long time. The arrival of Chinese group tours is very important for the recovery of Japanese tourism,” Yamada said.
Air tickets to popular destinations in Japan sold out on Aug. 10 when China announced the resumption of outbound group tours to the East Asian country.
"That day, our travel agency opened more routes," an experienced tour guide to Japan and South Korea who works at a Chinese travel agency told Yicai.
Some 10.7 million tourists traveled to Japan in the first half, of which more than half at 600,000 were from mainland China, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. This is still a big drop from 2019 when the country received 31.8 million tourists, of which 30 percent came from the mainland.
Some 310,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Japan in July. But when this number will return to 2019 levels is hard to tell, as many factors need to be taken into account, Yamada said. More flights are needed to boost international travel, he added.
Both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are mulling adding more flights to China now that group tours have started again, according to reports in the Japanese media. ANA’s flights to China are still only 35 percent of the number they were in 2019 and that of JAL is at 55 percent.
But the arrival of busloads of Chinese tourists could aggravate Japan’s problem with ‘overtourism,’ which includes lack of manpower, crowded scenic spots and traffic jams.
Such situations do exist, Yamada said. Japan’s tourism resources are imbalanced in different regions, but the country will do its best to get its tourism industry back on track as soon as possible.
Some services are ready. For example, the tax refund service at department stores is working well. But services like buses and hotels need to be improved, he added.
Editor: Kim Taylor