Fri, May 13, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Japan urges Taiwanese tourists to return to northeast

DISASTER FALLOUT:Japan-bound tourism from Taiwan plunged 53% in March from a year earlier and Taiwan is still maintaining a ‘red’ travel alert for many areas

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff Reporter

Japan’s tourism officials yesterday called on Taiwanese to resume travel to its quake-stricken region, saying many tourist attractions emerged from the disaster unscathed or have recovered.

“Many popular tourist resorts and facilities remain unaffected and safe for sightseeing,” Hiroshi Muto, vice commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, told a media briefing in Taipei.

Muto said the powerful earthquake and subsquent tsunami on March 11 dealt a severe blow to the Tohoku region, where -authorities have tightened food safety standards to defuse rediation contamination concerns.

Japan-bound tourists from Taiwan plummeted 53 percent in March from a year earlier, while overall foreign tourist figures dropped about 50 percent, after two reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant were severely damaged, driving up radiation levels.

Tohoku literally means the northeastern region, and consists of six prefectures including Akita, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima.

Last month, Taiwan downgraded its travel alert for some areas in Japan to “gray” — which suggests caution during visits — but is maintaining the “red” alert for the eastern, southern and northeastern parts of Japan, including Tokyo. Red means travel should be avoided.

“With a few exceptions, public transportation, power supply and other infrastructure facilities have returned to normal,” said Masataka Abe, deputy general manager of the Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization.

Abe expressed hope that the number of tourists from Taiwan could soon rise to the pre-quake levels of 1.27 million recorded last year. The figure marked a 23.8 percent increase from a year earlier, as Japan is popular among Taiwanese, he said, citing official figures.

By contrast, Taiwan-bound Japanese tourists increased 12.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, Abe said.

Japan is to impose power supply rationing in the summer, but it will be carried out in such a fashion that tourists will not be affected, Muto said.

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