With tourism peak "Golden Week" in May drawing closer in Japan, Japanese travel agencies are staging their turf battles, among which one was fighting in a market expected to boom soon -- China.
"I went to China five years ago in a two-week tour, to Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and other cities," a Japanese woman surnamed Takahashi said. "I plan to go there again next year, to watch the Olympic Games."
The need of Takahashi and others are closely watched by the travel industry. A selection of tour lines to a number of cities in China have already been offered for the May holiday, an annual tourism peak season.
Several factors are behind the expected boom, including interest sparked by the 2008 Olympic Games and the just-beginning mass retirement of baby boomers in Japan, the latest Nikkei Weekly newspaper said.
Also to be counted on is the warming up of the bilateral ties between Tokyo and Beijing. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. is offering a Japan-China friendship tour. A four-day tour takes in a giant panda reserve in Sichuan province in southwestern China. According to Nikkei, part of the tour fee would be used to support the protection of the rare animal.
Japan's largest travel group JTB Corp. has also marketed several tour lines to China, hoping to turn first-time Japanese tourists into repeat customers. A five-day tour to Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai includes sightseeing at Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall in Beijing, as well as Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor in Xi'an.
A seven-day tour by JTB also includes scenic cities Guilin and Yangshuo in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in south China, along with Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai. The tour also features local specialty meals as a selling point.
H.I.S. Co. is targeting China's Hainan Island as a relax tour destination for couples of all ages. To shorten flight time, the agency has chartered direct flights from Narita airport to Hainan. Two five-day tours will depart on April 28 and May 2 respectively, each limited to 196 travelers.
The budget agency said it would introduce more Hainan tours if it can obtain charter flight slots, according to Nikkei.
The paper quoted industry sources as saying that more cities in China can provide satisfactory tourism services thanks to China's rapid economic development. Competition for a bigger share of the unexplored market is likely to heat up ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, it said.
According to statistics, the number of Japanese visitors to China reached 3.75 million in 2006, a sharp rise from 1.3 million in 1995.
(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2007)