Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Tourists cancel Japan trips in droves

HEALTH WORRIES Health certificates will now be a requirement for Taiwanese visitors to Japan, and many hotels there are putting up their `not welcome' signs


Taiwanese are canceling trips to Japan after several Japanese hotels and tourist destinations banned travelers from Taiwan over the weekend.

"We were forced to cancel three tour groups [to Japan] this morning," Chen Chun-Sheng (陳春生), a manager at Partner Travel Service Co (百順旅行社), said yesterday.

The company, an industry veteran specializing in tours to Japan, has only booked two groups to Japan this month, down significantly from 50 groups in May last year.

Chen added that tourists are worried Japanese hoteliers may try to find fault with visitors from Taiwan and have therefore altered their travel plans.

Phoenix Tours International Inc (鳳凰旅行社), the nation's only listed travel company, has also felt the brunt of consumer uneasiness.

"We received many inquiries today... consumers concerned about possible trouble with visits to Japan at this moment," said Su Wei-yu (蘇維玉), vice president of Phoenix.

Taiwanese may receive a less than warm welcome these days in Japan.

"This morning our company received faxes from several Japanese hotels saying they don't plan to accommodate any Taiwanese visitors in the short term," Chen said.

The decision was made after a doctor from Mackay Memorial Hospital's Taipei branch who visited Japan last week was listed as a probable SARS case after returning home.

News of the doctor's plight shocked Japanese authorities.

The hotel where the doctor stayed has been disinfected and the government asked people who may have had contact with him to be quarantined.

Daiwa Royal Hotel, a major Japanese hotel chain with 30 branches nationwide, announced on Sunday it would reject visitors from Taiwan until the World Health Organization excludes it from the list of SARS--infected areas, according to Chen.

The Japanese representative office here -- the Interchange Association (Japan), Taipei office -- also announced that, starting yesterday, all Taiwanese will be required to submit health certificates when applying for a visa to Japan.

"The move will certainly cause some inconvenience and is expected to lower interest in visiting Japan," said Chen Yi-chuan (陳怡全), secretary-general of Travel Quality Assurance Association (旅行品質保障協會).

Chen Yi-chuan tried to downplay the impact, saying the tourism relationship between Japan and Taiwan is strong.

"Many Japanese hoteliers and tourism companies are still very supportive to us," he said.

Both China Airlines Co (華航) and EVA Airlines Corp (長榮航空) have decided to cancel charter flights to Hokkaido next month, a Central News Agency report from Tokyo said, while the Okinawa Prefectural Government over the weekend suggested China Airlines temporarily suspend Taipei-Okinawa service.

In related news, Far Eastern Air Transport Corp (遠東航空) yesterday announced it would suspend its Palau service, effective tomorrow, while a Transaero Airlines, a Russian carrier, said yesterday it would cancel a flight from Moscow to Taiwan scheduled for Sunday.

The Palau route is a cash cow for Far Eastern Air Transport, with occupancy on the route currently at 70 percent.

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