Overnight foreign visitors in Fukushima hit record high in 2018

The cumulative number of non-Japanese visitors who stayed one or more nights in Fukushima Prefecture in 2018 logged an all-time high of 141,350, breaking the previous record of 128,490 marked in 2007, the prefectural government said July 12 in an analysis report. There were increased tourist arrivals from Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, all deemed as priority markets for attracting travelers and where greater efforts were made to publicize Fukushima after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. With overnight non-Japanese visits to Fukushima remaining buoyant this spring, the local government plans to put all its energy into publicity campaigns for tourism attractions such as cuisine and the “culture of samurai (warriors).” The findings were based on the Fukushima government’s analysis of data in the Japan Tourism Agency’s accommodation survey final reportl, published in late June. The total number of overnight non-Japanese visitors to Fukushima in 2018 represented a rise of 45,060 from the previous year’s 96,290. Visitors from Taiwan constituted the largest component of the 2018 total, reaching 41,930, about 1.5 times the previous year’s level. Placing second were travelers from Thailand, almost doubling to 18,190. Those from Vietnam showed a 3.1-fold surge to 10,990, the fourth largest proportion. The local government attributed the rise to the inauguration of charter flights linking Fukushima airport with Taiwan and Vietnam, and tourism promotion campaigns targeted at travel agents abroad via local information-disseminating channels. Local government officials view the sharp growth in tourist arrivals as the outcome of efforts to publicize “must-see sights” not available in tropical countries, such as seasonal flowers, autumnal foliage and snow, through social networking services in local languages. Such efforts have gained ground among individual travelers abroad obtaining tourism tips via the Internet, with followers of the Fukushima government’s official Facebook page numbering 190,000 in Thailand and 60,000 in Taiwan. The cumulative total of non-Japanese lodgers in Fukushima nosedived to some 24,000 in 2011 when the quake and nuclear disaster occurred, or less than a third of the previous year’s level. But it has since been recovering gradually as a result of steady efforts to publicize Fukushima’s tourism allures in overseas markets. The prefecture has continued to undertake tourist-attracting initiatives in Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries, regarding them as promising markets amid the sluggish recovery in tourist arrivals from South Korea and China, both of which ranked high on the list of inbound visitors before the disaster. The Japan Travel Agency survey covers accommodation facilities across Japan, including those with 10 employees or more each. The cumulative number of non-Japanese lodgers in Fukushima continued to rise at a brisk pace in the first four months of 2019, standing at 76,650, about 1.7 times the level in the same period of last year. “We will spread the attractions of our tourism resources among travelers from abroad, such as specialty food, including peaches, and samurai culture as represented by the Aizu region,” said an official of the prefectural government’s tourism exchange section. (Translated by Kyodo News)