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Chinese tourists could cancel Japan trips, agency says

Chinese tourists could cancel Japan trips, agency says
Japan's retailers are reporting a drop in revenue following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- As many as 400,000 Chinese tourists could cancel planned trips to Japan, a hugely popular destination, as Tokyo steps up restrictions against travelers from China.

The Japan Association of Travel Agents said this week in a forecast tourists from China could suspend travel plans, based on estimates for Chinese group travelers, the Nikkei and Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday.

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Japan requires Chinese group travelers to submit identification documents to Japanese travel agencies, but the Chinese government is also stepping up restrictions. Last week, Beijing banned all group leisure travel to overseas destinations. JATA estimates the number of Chinese group travelers planning to visit Japan in February and March is about 400,000. The number does not include independent travelers, who comprised about 60 percent all Chinese travelers to Japan in 2019.

Japan is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists. Last year more than 9 million Chinese tourists visited the country, but owing to the deadly coronavirus, Japan has begun to turn away foreign nationals from Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak. Foreigners who have stayed in the Chinese province in the past 14 days or who hold passports issued in the province are also banned from entry. Japan has confirmed more than 20 cases.

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Japanese retailers may be feeling the impact of restricted Chinese travel.

On Monday, Japan's leading department stores, including Mitsukoshi Isetan and Takashimaya, reported a 10 percent decline in duty-free item sales from the previous year, for the Lunar New Year holidays. Overall department store sales to Chinese tourists were down 24 percent from 2019, according to local newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Japanese retailers may have already been experiencing a decline in revenue in 2019, when a trade dispute with South Korea was followed by a South Korean boycott of Japanese goods and services.

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South Korean news service News 1 reported Tuesday about 5.58 million South Korean tourists visited Japan in 2019, down from 7.54 million tourists in 2018.

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