No. of overnight foreign visitors in Fukushima jumps 2.4-fold in Jan., fastest regional growth in Japan

The cumulative number of overnight non-Japanese visitors staying one or more nights in Fukushima Prefecture in January totaled 17,700, about 2.4 times the level recorded a year earlier, the Japan Tourism Agency said in a preliminary survey report released on March 29. The rate of increase was the fastest among the country's 47 prefectures. It was the first time that Fukushima logged the sharpest pace of growth in a single month. On the back of regular charter flights to be operated year-round between Fukushima airport and Taiwan, starting this spring, the prefectural government intends to put greater energy into sending out information on local tourist attractions and improving services for travelers from abroad. The report involves two kinds of surveys on the cumulative number of overnight non-Japanese travelers. Fukushima topped in survey data combining both -- lodgers staying at accommodation facilities with 10 or more employees and those at smaller ones with nine or fewer employees. Numbers are collected from all lodging facilities in the former category while random sampling is used in the latter. According to data limited to facilities with 10 or more employees, Fukushima had 6,160 overnight visitors from Taiwan in January, about 5.1 times the level recorded a year before, followed by 1,200 travelers from Thailand and Australia each, up about 3.8-fold and 3.1-fold, respectively. Analyzing the data, the prefectural government said travel packages using charter flights from Taiwan to Fukushima airport and back have increased along with those involving regular flights via Sendai airport in the neighboring prefecture of Miyagi as a result of campaigns conducted in Taiwan to encourage local travel agents to come up with new tour products. In Thailand, spreading recognition of the "Diamond Route" of travel going through four prefectures -- Fukushima, Tokyo, Tochigi and Ibaraki -- and other attractive tourist travel itineraries has drawn attention to the region's winter scenery, including the view from the Tadami River Daiichi Bridge in the Aizu area of Fukushima. Awareness of the region has also risen among snow-seeking skiers and snowboarders from Australia. The cumulative total of overnight non-Japanese visitors to Fukushima in 2018 reached some 120,000, the largest annual number since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The number of such travelers showed increases of about 40 percent in November and about 80 percent in December last year, showing an uptrend. Cumulative visitor numbers also rose sharply in January in other prefectures, including Miyagi and Niigata. The Fukushima government attributes the growing number to overseas initiatives jointly undertaken with other prefectures to promote wide-area tourism, including a publicity campaign being conducted with Miyagi and Yamagata in Taiwan for trips featuring hands-on experience, and a promotional tour for Thai travel agents organized by three prefectures in the southeastern part of the Tohoku region -- including Fukushima -- plus Tochigi. (Translated by Kyodo News)