Japan-China tourism will rebound this year: chairman


The executive chairman of Group, Asia’s biggest online travel agency, says he wants to see Japan and China reopen their borders to each other for leisure travel “later this year,” projecting a strong recovery in tourism demand despite the coronavirus pandemic.

A recovery in domestic travel would come first once infections start to ease, and the “next question” would be when Japan and China can reach an agreement about reciprocal travel, Co-founder and Executive Chairman James Liang in a recent video interview.

“I hope this kind of agreement can be reached later this year,” Liang said from the Chinese company’s Shanghai office. “Once the border opens, there will be a spike of outbound travel. There would be pent-up demand.”

He said travel will continue to be a “big industry,” with individual leisure travel recovering first and tours, business travel and conference-related travel taking longer, Japan Times stated in its report.

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Japan has banned visitors from 146 countries and regions, in principle. This includes China, from which 9.59 million people visited Japan in 2019, accounting for a third of all inbound travellers.

To keep customers motivated, Liang said is promoting various hotel vouchers through digital marketing, including live web broadcasts of programs featuring popular YouTubers pitching facilities and destinations, according to the Japan Times report.

The vouchers are not only discounted but are fully refundable, with no cancellation fees, and have drawn strong demand from Chinese customers, showing evidence that outbound tourism is ready to recover, Liang said.

When a program on Japanese hotels and ryokan (traditional inns) was streamed live to Chinese users in mid-July, some 22,912 rooms were booked for a total of 26.19 million yuan (¥400 million), said.

“The beauty of the pre-sale deals is that you can lock in the discount but you don’t have any risks” since vouchers are refundable, Liang said. “Japan is actually by far the most favourite destination (among Chinese)…When the border opens, they will definitely come to Japan.”

He said such livestreamed promotional programs — an hour long — can also help travellers gain deeper knowledge about their destinations while providing opportunities for hotels to pitch their charms, the Japan Times report said.