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China visits to Japan drop 33% as islands-spat spurs boycott

By Kiyotaka Matsuda

Bloomberg News

LAST UPDATED: 8:15 a.m. HST, Nov 16, 2012

Chinese visitor numbers to Japan slumped 33 percent in October, the biggest decline since a nuclear crisis last year, as tourists boycotted the country because of a territorial dispute.

Chinese arrivals dropped to 71,000, the lowest since June 2011, according to data released by the Japan National Tourism Organization today. Total visitor numbers rose 15 percent from last year to 706,100. China is Japan’s second-biggest source of visitors after South Korea.

Chinese visits may continue declining at a similar pace through March, according to JTB Corp., Japan’s biggest travel agency, after tour groups canceled trips amid tensions caused by the Japanese government’s purchase of disputed islands in the East China Sea from a private owner. Japanese trips to China may also drop as much as 70 percent until the end of March as travelers opt for the destinations such as Hawaii, it said.

All Nippon Airways Co., Japan’s biggest carrier, said today it will extend capacity cuts on China routes into next month because of the continued slowdown in demand. Chinese consumers have also boycotted Japanese stores and cars at home as part of the protests.

“Japanese companies’ lost sales in China may eventually affect the Japanese economy and the domestic travel market,” said Kiyohide Mitsuyama, an executive board member at JTB. “That is what I am afraid of.”

The travel boycott has hit Japanese travel companies and hotels, which are still recovering from a slump in demand following a tsunami last year. Total visitor numbers fell 28 percent last year after the disaster crippled a nuclear plant along the northeastern coast, causing concerns about radiation leaks.

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