The beginning of May is host to a long holiday period in Japan known as “Golden Week”. Originally given the moniker by shopkeepers and business owners on account of the amount of custom they received during the holidays, Golden Week provides many a hard working Japanese person with the chance to put their feet up and rediscover what it feels like not to have to clock in, don overalls or stare at a computer screen all day, with many instead heading back to their home towns for family reunion or taking trip to tourist attractions.
With China’s May Day holiday also coinciding with Golden Week, the Korean tourist industry usually sees an influx of tourists from both countries eager to relax, see the sights and spend their hard-earned cash. Due to the yen’s sudden drop in value, however, many Japanese tourists are putting their travel plans on hold this year, opting to stay closer to home where their money with stretch further. Korea, it would seem, has been left looking to Chinese tourists alone to boost its economy this holiday season.
According to member of Korea’s travel industry, from the period of March 19 to April 15, 2013, Korea’s top ranking 19 travel agents took bookings from 88,112 Japanese tourists. This figure shows a decline of 33.4 percent when compared to the previous year. What’s more, the number of Japanese guests who stayed at Korea’s Lotte Hotel from the period of October 2012 to March 2013 also saw a drop of 30 percent compared to 2012. A spokesman for the travel industry made the following statement:
“It is believed that the sudden decrease in Japanese tourists is related to the effects of the cheap yen and the fear and anxiety surrounding North Korea’s nuclear experiments. Unless these factors are resolved, it is quite foreseeable that Korea will see a further decline in visitors from Japan.”
There was a point in June last year where the yen’s high exchange rate–which meant that yen bought a greater amount of foreign currency–made traveling to Korea a particularly cost-effective vacation for Japanese tourists. However with the yen’s rapid drop in value in recent months, travel expenses for Japanese tourists have rocketed. For this reason, there is expected to be a 10.9 percent reduction in the number of Japanese tourists visiting South Korea this Golden Week, with major Korean travel agent Hanatour reporting that reservations from Japanese customers have fallen by half.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for Korea’s tourist industry. Korea’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced that the number of Chinese visitors to the country rose by 38 percent in the period of January to March this year. An estimated 48 percent more Chinese tourists than normal are also expected to descend on Korea’s Cheju Island, ensuring that Korea’s top tourist season will not be a complete disaster this year.