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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        19  March 2011

Japan tsunami to hit Vietnam's tourism

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The devastation caused by the largest ever earthquake to hit Japan will have strong adverse impacts on Viet Nam's tourism sector, news media report..

Statistics from the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) rank Japan third among the top 10 countries after mainland China and South Korea in terms of tourist arrivals. More than 400,000 Japanese tourists visited Viet Nam last year, and this was expected to rise to 500,000 this year.

Change of plans

However, the tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, obliterating whole towns and villages in its path, will impact Viet Nam's plans to attract 5.5 million international visitors from four key markets: China, Northeast Asia (Japan and South Korea), Western Europe and Asean.

It would also affect tourism revenues this year and travel agencies that organise tours to Japan are bound to be hit badly.

Around 30 per cent of Japanese visitors have canceled tours to Viet Nam, the paper reported after a survey of several travel agencies.

While official numbers have not been announced by the tourism sector, the paper expected the cancellations to be much higher.

Masato Takamatsu, deputy director of the Japan Tourism Marketing Company, said: "In the last 10 years, the number of Japanese tourists to ASEAN has nearly doubled, from 1.4 million to 2.7 million. Among the ASEAN countries, Viet Nam attracts a large number of Japanese tourists. "The catastrophe has affected travel demand in Japan. However, I believe it will not last for long."

Many travel companies have cancelled or postponed tours to Japan in wake of the catastrophe. Several companies have asked their customers to wait for them to reassess the situation.

They say the tsunami hit Northeast Japan while main destinations including Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are in the South and not damaged in the disaster.

"Tours to Japan start from end of March," said Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy general manager of Ha Noi Redtours.

The company has scheduled three tours to Japan's Sakura Festival at the end of this month. "Our partner in Japan has confirmed the tours will not be affected, but that is still a one-sided opinion. We need to ascertain the situation," Hoan said.

"We expect the situation will improve in the next two weeks, and organised tours will leave as scheduled," he added.

A representative of Pacific Travel Company said it has postponed tours that depart in mid-March.


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