December 13, 2022 08:36
Nearly half a million foreigners visited Japan in October lured by the weak yen as soon as the country opened up again. That was up 2.4 times since the previous month.
The biggest group were Koreans with 122,900, followed by Americans, Hong Kongers, Taiwanese and Thais.
But the numbers are still small compared to levels before the pandemic.
In 2018, 7.45 million Koreans visited Japan, or 620,000 a month on average, second only to the 8.38 million Chinese tourists.
A staffer at the Japan Tourism Agency on Wednesday said, "Korean tourist numbers returned to 20 percent of previous levels as soon as the gates opened."
The cheap yen was a big draw. The amount of yen exchanged in October at the four major commercial banks in Korea stood at 10.32 billion, up from 1.48 billion yen a year ago. This was due at least in part to people getting their cash ready for the trip, and some banks ran out of banknotes.
Airlines are boosting flights to Japan. Korean Air has resumed flights to Sapporo and Okinawa this month, increasing flights to Japan to 88 a week. Asiana also boosted flights to Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya and plans to increase the number of weekly flights to 66.
But that has been bad news for Korean hotels, especially on overpriced Jeju Island. Popular hotels in Gangwon Province, which saw room occupancy rates rise to 90 percent last summer, now have about 70 percent occupancy.
It also means a widening deficit for Korea in the tourism balance of payments.
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