Business & Economy

Asia fights to recover tourism devastated by pandemic

Madrid, Jan 19 (EFE).- Tourism in Asia is beginning to recover from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and countries like Japan, Korea, the Philippines and India hope to boost the sector to mitigate the economic damage of a crisis that saw the number of international tourists to the region in 2022 plummet by about 77% compared to pre-pandemic figures, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Japan, which before the pandemic was one of the trendier destinations, welcomed 3.8 million foreign visitors in 2022, the year it progressively eased its border restrictions. That figure only represents 12% of the visitors in 2019, when 31.8 million tourists came to the country.

“We are quite positive and optimistic about 2023. The global strategy is to achieve by 2030 to reach 60 million visitors and we are working towards that,” Laura Blocona, communications manager of the Japan National Tourism Office (JNTO), told Efe.

Japan was the last of the G7 nations to reopen its borders to tourism, only doing so after the domestic tourism industry and Japanese and foreign business organizations had asked the government to relax the strict measures.

It was only on October 11 that the country removed the daily entry limit and allowed individual tourist trips, measures that had severely dented the number of foreign visitors.

“Obviously travel slowed down for more than two and a half years and the rest of the destinations in the last year had already opened and Japan remained closed, and many trips to Japan had to be canceled. There are people who only make maybe one long-haul trip a year and in 2022 we did lose that momentum,” Blocona said at the Fitur International Tourism Fair in Madrid.

Now, they are starting to notice the return of visitors: “At least from Spain we have noticed a huge interest. More than 2,000 people came to Japan in 2022 and we hope that this really starts to pick up speed in the run-up to Easter and the summer, because ultimatelyJapan is a trip that people prepared six months in advance for,” Blocona explained.

To achieve that, they want to attract tourists not only to traditional destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, but alternative options such as the Kumano Kodo hiking trail, “a pilgrimage route that is twinned with the Camino de Santiago and this year celebrates its 25th anniversary,” he says.

Nature and exotic wildlife is also on offer in India, specifically the region of Madhya Pradesh, known as the region of tigers, cheetahs and leopards.

A huge state in central India that wants to see the return of international tourists and show that, beyond its wild nature, that they have developed “sustainable and responsible tourism” in which to get to know rural areas, culture and gastronomy, Yuvraj Padole, Deputy Director of the region’s tourism agency, emphasized.

India reopened its borders to tourism at the end of March and hopes to gradually recover its record of nearly 18 million visitors in 2019, before the pandemic. “India is a very safe tourist destination in all aspects,” Padole insisted.

Prior to the pandemic, the Asia-Pacific region welcomed nearly 360 million visitors, according to the World Tourism Organization, in an industry that generated millions of jobs and became one of the pillars of the socioeconomic structure of many countries that are now struggling with the devastating impact of the coronavirus. EFE


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