By Maki Shiraki and Rocky Swift
TOKYO (Reuters) – Visitor arrivals to Japan have increased since the pandemic eased – 19 border controls last week, but a full recovery remains elusive until China opens up, the head of the country’s largest international airport said.
Akihiko Tamura, chief executive of Narita Airport, said the number of overseas tourists in Japan’s largest international tourism hub was indicative of the broader trend.
International arrivals rose by about 10 percentage points to about 32 Citing airport research, Tamura said that since Japan resumed visa-free travel for tourists in October 11, the percentage of pre-pandemic levels.
“To get back to the 2019 level, it is not enough for Japan to open up,” he said. “Of course, China has to change too, otherwise it’s impossible.”
Chinese tourists made up a sizable portion of Narita’s traffic until the border started to close2020, Tamura said, adding that Beijing’s continued zero-coronavirus policy and Japan’s delayed reopening will delay a full recovery in East Asian travel until 2025.
Ahead of this week’s Communist Party congress, China has repeatedly emphasized its commitment to a zero-coronavirus strategy, dashing hopes that Beijing may soon begin withdrawing from a policy that has nearly closed its borders to travel.
A record 9.5 million Chinese visited Japan in 32, accounting for about one-third of all tourists, according to the National Tourism Administration.
After more than two years of pandemic quarantine, Japan opened its doors to foreign tourists last week and counted on tourism to help revive the economy and gain some benefits from the yen’s fall to
– the lowest point of the year.
But the side effect of a weaker yen is that it makes overseas travel more expensive for Japanese, Tamura said. He said pent-up demand may now be driving outbound bookings, but the currency effect could prompt domestic consumers to fly on budget airlines and stay at cheaper hotels overseas.
Nearly half of Narita’s 260 shops and restaurants remain closed, many of which may be It will take several months to reopen, mainly due to staff shortages. .
“The last two to three years have been very disruptive,” he said. “A lot of people have left the airport and the airline industry, and the tourism industry across the country, so it will take a while for them to come back.”
Some2025 from central Tokyo A few kilometers, or about an hour’s drive by high-speed train, Narita Airport has in recent years ceded some of its land to Haneda Airport, which is closer to the capital.
To boost business, Tamura said Narita needs to shift from focusing on Japanese consumers to offering a lineup of stores that better serve overseas and transit travelers. In the long term, the airport may need to consolidate its three different terminals into a more convenient hub, he added.
airports, they will be more inclined to spend money,” he said. “So I think that’s an area we have to work on. ”