Japan's ambitious tourism goal rocked by Asia geopolitics
Nikkei -- Oct 17
Tensions with South Korea and the turmoil in Hong Kong are casting a shadow over Japan's goal of drawing an annual 40 million tourists by next year.

September figures released Wednesday showed a clear trend of South Koreans, long a mainstay of Japan's tourism industry, booking trips elsewhere.

Visitors from South Korea plummeted 58.1% from a year earlier, reflecting the frosty relations over history and trade. Only 201,200 South Koreans traveled to Japan last month, the Japan National Tourism Organization said. This follows a 48% decline in August.

Last month's drop-off is all the more glaring when considering the natural disasters that kept tourists away a year earlier. Typhoon Jebi flooded western Japan early that September, shutting down Kansai Airport near Osaka. An earthquake struck Hokkaido shortly afterward.

Lifting the number of annual visitors to 40 million has been a milestone for the nation, as it seeks to boost its stature as a tourism nation. In 2016, the government set out a goal of doubling annual visitors to 40 million by 2020 and increasing that further to 60 million by 2030.

Regions that count on South Korean tourism are feeling the bite. In the city of Fukuoka, the Beetle hydrofoil ferry service that connects to the South Korean city of Busan is suffering from a drastic downturn in traffic. Usership tanked 20% on the year in July, when bilateral tensions initially flared up after Tokyo announced restrictions on certain exports to South Korea. The decline reached 70% in September.

"There are absolutely no perceivable signs of recovery," said a representative at JR Kyushu Jet Ferry, which runs the hydrofoils.

News source: Nikkei
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