China’s travel restrictions take toll on Japan’s retail, tourism businesses

Japan braces ; A Chinese tour group visiting Takayama pictured

Japan is bracing itself for a slump in tourism revenue as a result of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, as tourism businesses across the country are being hard hit with a wave of cancellations following the Chinese government’s ban on all outbound group travel on January 27.

Tokyo-based travel agency Kamone, which specialises in tours for Chinese travellers, has received more than 20,000 cancellations of package trips to Japan for trips up to February 10.

Japan braces for blow to tourism industry as Chinese tourists account for a third of the country’s total inbound visitors; a Chinese tour group visiting Takayama pictured

Elsewhere, Japan’s largest travel agent, JTB Corporation, has cancelled all tours in Japan during the Chinese New Year period that were requested by a Chinese company.

FIT travel from China is down, too, with travel agent H.I.S., tour bus operator Hato Bus, and hotel chains also reporting cancellations.

It is a heavy blow to Japan’s tourism sector as Chinese tourists account for a third of the country’s total 9.5 million inbound tourists annually. In 2019, Chinese tourists’ spending totalled US$16.3 billion, making China the biggest tourism market for Japan globally.

Chinese tourists were also the biggest shoppers last year, with an average spend of US$998 per person, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The spread of the virus, and subsequent travel restrictions in China, hence has sparked concern among departmental stores and shops in Japan still reeling from a domestic decline in spending as a result of an increase in consumption tax in 2019.

Meanwhile, Japanese tourists are also cancelling trips to China. JalPak, a package tour operator owned by Japan Airlines, has received fifty cancellations of trips to the country since news broke of the virus.

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