Epidemic hurts Japan-bound travel: tourism industry


Taipei, Feb. 14 (CNA) Interest among Taiwanese in traveling to Japan has waned recently because of the rising number of coronavirus cases there, leading to uncertainty over the outbound travel market to what has been the most popular destination for people from Taiwan.

Some 30 percent of group tourists have canceled their trips to Japan since the Lunar New Year (Jan. 25), a situation made worse by an outbreak of the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise liner quarantined off of Yokohama, according to the Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA) on Friday.

Tsai Chin-hui (蔡錦惠), who oversees the North Asian market at the TQAA, said another 15 percent of travelers booked on tours to Japan have called their travel agencies in the past two days asking about the situation in Japan and the implications of a new Japanese rule.

Japan began on Friday to deny entry of airline and cruise liner passengers if there is at least one confirmed case on board.

The uncertainty over the outbreak in Japan could affect travel interest there until at least the end of March, Tsai said, suggesting a possible rebound starting in April when the weather gets warmer and more promotional packages are likely.

“We are expecting fluctuations in Taiwan-Japan travel in the near future,” Tsai said, citing Taiwan‘s announcement of a travel alert to Japan on Friday due to concerns over a possible community outbreak.

The alert may further dampen interest in travel to the country, but the situation might also improve shortly once those concerns are cleared, she said.

The weakness has already affected airlines.

Both China Airlines and EVA Airways, Taiwan‘s two largest carriers, will cut some of their flights to Japan, including to popular destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa.

CAL will cancel a total of 66 Taiwan-Japan flights between Feb. 17 and March 4, while EVA will cancel 14 such flights between Feb. 24 and Feb. 29, according to their latest flight schedule.

According to Taiwan‘s Tourism Bureau, about 4.5 million Taiwanese traveled to Japan between January and November last year, accounting for about 30 percent of all outbound travelers.

Since the coronavirus surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, the virus has caused more than 65,000 infections and 1,300 deaths worldwide, mainly in China.

As of Friday, there were 36 confirmed cases in Japan and 218 cases from the Diamond Princess. Taiwan has 18 confirmed cases to date.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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