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Figures for May tourism inbound to Japan were released on Friday on JNTO`s website – find it here.

Altogether disappointing at 34% down year on year, explained as mainly due to swine flu hitting Japan, continued slump in consumption and strong yen.   From the beginning of the calendar year through April, while huge drops in Korean visitors impacted the numbers severely, there was continued glimmering growth in visitors from certain Asian nations, in particular China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand – granted some of it due to seasonal effects but the April figures suggested the situation had moved into a stabilizing trend.  However, the May figures resulted from an across-the-board drop in yoy arrivals from all countries including the Asia bloc – with the one exception being continued growth from French visitors albeit a mere 1% for May.

We`ll assume the swine flu was the large majority factor for May and hope for the better as summer deals abound and the Visit Japan programme begins to produce results.   The announcement a few days ago of loosening visa restrictions for Chinese tour groups: extending the number cities from which tour groups are allowed to Japan (now only Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangdong) is a welcome move hopefully in the direction of further deregulation.  There is a lot of discussion on the pros and cons, but the government policy is gradually coming to an understanding that tourism has huge untapped potential.   Along with tourism visa deregulation, we hope the budget airline competition will be allowed to move in to the territory as quickly as possible… also likely to happen but these things take some time in Japan.

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