Non-Japanese visitors staying overnight in Fukushima reach 78,680 in Jan.-Oct. 2017, topping pre-disaster level

The cumulative number of non-Japanese travelers who stayed overnight or longer in Fukushima Prefecture totaled 78,680 in the January-October period of 2017, recording an increase of 790 over the same period of 2010, the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The 2011 nuclear disaster had lingering adverse effects on inbound travelers due to safety concerns. It was the first time that the number of non-Japanese lodgers in the first 10 months of any year exceeded the comparable 2010 total. The momentum of growth was so strong that the total for all of 2017 is estimated to have surpassed that for 2010. Prefectural government officials attributed the growth to the effects of measures aimed at attracting visitors such as the dissemination of tourism information. The prefecture is poised to redouble efforts to draw travelers in the upcoming new fiscal year beginning April 1. The cumulative figures of non-Japanese visitors spending one night or more were based on the Japan Tourism Agency’s accommodation survey on such travelers, updated at the end of last year. The statistics cover lodgers at accommodation facilities with 10 employees or more each. In October last year, Fukushima saw 14,290 non-Japanese travelers staying overnight or longer, about 1.7 times the 8,471 visitors from abroad in the same month of 2010, boosting the 10-month total of 2017. The prefecture believes the hefty number resulted from tourist-attracting campaigns such as publicity through social networking services and other channels about autumnal tourism resources, including beautiful colored leaves. Visitors from Taiwan topped the list of non-Japanese travelers to Fukushima in last year’s January-October period, totaling 18,390, about 1.7 times the 2010 level, followed by those from Thailand at 7,360, some 6.2 times as large. Travelers from Australia, where skiing in Japan is popular, grew approximately 12.6 times to 3,150 while those from Vietnam showed some 1.8-fold rise to 2,780 as compared with 2016 (no pre-disaster data available for Vietnam). On the other hand, South Korean travelers, whose number was more than 40,000 in 2010, plunged to 4,270 or 10% last year due to the suspension of flights between the prefectural capital of Fukushima and Seoul as well as harmful rumors stemming from the nuclear mishap. The prefecture set aside about 50 million yen in a supplementary budget adopted in December to fund a non-Japanese traveler-attracting program. Featured in the program are tourism promotion measures such as the development of tourist resources conveying the “culture of samurai warriors,” as represented by historical legacies in the Aizu region, and the spread of tourism information to Thailand under a joint initiative of prefectures in the southern Tohoku region. (Translated by Kyodo News)