Travel to Japan returning to normal, slowly

In the wake of the major earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan in March, travel disruptions were fueled by a rising death toll, fear of a nuclear disaster plus travel warnings issued worldwide. Now, just a few months later, flights, tours and cruises are returning to normal scheduling.

“We are confident of returning the capacity to full level on July 1” Japan Airlines President Masaru Onishi told the Mainichi Daily News today noting that business travel in Japan has rebounded and Japanese tourists have also resumed making overseas trips following a drop-off after the disaster.
Passenger bookings had fallen nearly 30 percent in March, and were still down by about 20 percent for international routes and 15 percent on domestic routes in April.

Cruise lines are returning too with Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas set to be back calling in Okinawa on August 1st.

“Judging from the current situation in Japan, we are well-assured of the safety of travelling to Japan. Japan has always been an attractive tourist destination and its show of great resilience in the face of the recent crisis has given travelers the confidence to visit the country again,” said Kelvin Tan, regional director Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

It looks to be a long road to “business as usual” in Japan. The US Department of State downgraded a Travel Warning just after the disaster to a Travel Alert recently, signaling an improvement in conditions but still urges caution:

“Japan is one of the most seismically active places in the world. Tokyo and areas to the Northeast continue to experience strong aftershocks related to the March 11 earthquake. Aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude can be expected to continue for more than a year. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake” the Department of State notes in their most current analysis.

Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean International