2nd round of charter flights from Taiwan set for May-July, seen bringing 1,800 tourists to Fukushima

A total of 26 round-trip charter flights (52 flights both ways) are to be operated between Fukushima Airport and Taiwan from May to July, the Fukushima prefectural government announced on Feb. 8. More than 1,800 tourists are expected to come from Taiwan on this second round of charter flights, exceeding some 1,000 travelers expected to be carried on 14 flights in the first round in January-March. The local government is seeking to have regular air service eventually inaugurated on the Taiwan route by accumulating track records of charter flights, while beefing up efforts to increase the number of visitors from abroad. Most first-round charter flights are operating at near full capacity, showing stable demand for tourism in Fukushima and prompting the second round to be put into shape, according to the prefecture. In the second round, Taiwan’s airline Far Eastern Air Transport will operate charter flights while travel agents in Taiwan will sell six-day, five-night travel packages that tour sightseeing spots in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures. Tour products outbound from Fukushima Airport were put on sale on Feb. 10. Around 1,800 tourists are expected to apply for both outbound and inbound tour packages, bringing the total number of air passengers to more than 3,600 both ways. It will be the largest air traffic for charter flights from Taiwan operated in a concentrated manner within a certain period since Fukushima Airport opened in 1993. The number of travelers from Taiwan to Fukushima stood at 13,290 in 2010, the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. It plummeted to 3,860 in 2011 when the nuclear disaster occurred. In an initial effort to attract inbound travelers, the prefectural government set up a tourism office in Taiwan, from which charter flights were flown before the nuclear accident, and undertook tourism campaigns involving senior officials, including the deputy governor. As a result, tourists to Fukushima numbered 23,180 as of Nov. 30 last year in the latest cumulative total for 2017, far exceeding the pre-disaster level. In Taiwan, import restrictions have remained on Fukushima products, except for “sake” rice wine, since the nuclear mishap. The prefecture is set to use the charter service from there as an opportunity to publicize the safety of its products and eventually dispel harmful rumors. The prefectural government intends to expand its subsidy program in fiscal 2018 for airlines operating charter flights to and from Fukushima Airport and travel agents offering tour products involving overnight stays in the prefecture in an effort to add momentum to the growth of inbound travelers. It has set aside about 88 million yen to fund the program under its initial budget plan for the current fiscal year through March 2019. The sum is about 2.9 times the fiscal 2017 level. The package tours to Taiwan from Fukushima Airport are being sold by two Japanese travel agents, H.I.S. Co. and Tour Wave Co. For inquiries, call the H.I.S. office in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, at 050-5833-9213 or the Tour Wave office in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at 022-212-1919. (Translated by Kyodo News)