Visitors to Japan Slumped 99.9% Last Month

A person takes a photograph of a Kaminarimon gate near the Sensoji temple in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, on April 25.
Photographer: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

Photographer: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

Only 2,900 foreign visitors entered Japan the month of April, a drop of more than 99.9% versus the year earlier, as the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic has frozen a once-booming tourism sector became clear.

The drop was the largest on records dating back to 1964, the Japan National Tourism Organization said. Japan on April 3 expanded entry restrictions to 73 countries, and now bars everyone except citizens from entering if they arrive from one of 100 nations. Just 3,900 Japanese left for abroad, with the government strongly discouraging travel to almost all parts of the world.

99 Problems
Visitors to Japan plunged 99.9% year-on-year in April to just 2,900 people amid the coronavirus pandemic

Source: Japan National Tourism Organization

Japan declared its own state of emergency in parts of the nation due to the pandemic on April 7, later expanded to include the entire country. The loose shutdown has found success, with the emergency lifted last week on most of the country geographically. Osaka and neighboring areas are likely to see the emergency lifted Thursday, while it may take another week for Tokyo and its environs. Tokyo, a city of almost 14 million, reported just five cases of coronavirus on Wednesday.

Japan Welcomed Foreign Workers Then Left Them in Covid-19 Limbo
Japan had become a major destination for international travelers in recent years, aided by ad campaigns and steps to relax visa approvals. Visitors to the country jumped almost four-fold since 2012 to 31.9 million last year. It had been targeting a record 40 million arrivals this year, when it was originally scheduled to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

With no end of the global pandemic in sight, Japan’s tourist sector is set for a prolonged slump, affecting revenue across a broad number of sectors. The increase in high-spending foreigners had turned the monthly tourist data into a closely watched statistic for traders, as the boom boosted shares in makers of cosmetics favored by Asian visitors, the once-ailing department store sector and electronics retailers, as well as hoteliers, travel agencies and theme park operators more directly linked to tourism.As recently as January, the problem of how to deal with crowds and garbage as a result of “overtourism” was a hot-button issue in the mayoral race in the historic city of Kyoto. In less than a month, as the pandemic spread, the city was promoting itself domestically with an ad campaign that showed how its once-packed streets now had more monkeys than people.

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