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Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012
Most Singaporeans still shunning visits to Japan on nuke safety fears
By SITI RAHIL
SINGAPORE — The Japan National Tourism Organization has launched another campaign to lure tourists from Singapore as the number of visitors from the city-state has yet to return to pre-March 11 levels.
JNTO data show that Singaporean visitors dropped almost 37.8 percent in December compared with the year before, even though the month is traditionally the peak season because of Singapore's yearend school holiday.
The total number of tourists from Singapore in 2011 was down 38.5 percent from the record 180,000 in the previous year, dashing the JNTO's hopes of a recovery by the year's end.
Singapore is normally one of Japan's top 10 tourism markets.
By contrast, the number of tourists from China, another major tourism market for the country, showed strong signs of a recovery in December as the figure rose 32 percent from a year earlier.
The JNTO's office in Singapore recently announced it plans to ratchet up its campaign to spur more people to visit Japan.
"JNTO Singapore is stepping up its promotional efforts in the first half of 2012 with a series of initiatives," the office said in a press release at the end of January.
A monthlong outdoor art display has been launched in Singapore's downtown shopping district featuring "Japan Trump" playing cards with illustrations of prefectures, the first time a foreign country has been allowed to use a public space on Orchard Road for a tourism campaign.
Major travel agents will also offer one-for-one tour package deals to entice Singaporeans to resume visiting Japan.
"Our objectives are to create positive hype and restore confidence in travel to Japan," Motonari Adachi, executive director of the JNTO Singapore office, was quoted as saying in its press release.
While Japan used to be one of the most popular holiday destinations for Singaporeans, it will be difficult to restore the nation's image and counter the steady stream of negative news about radioactive contamination of Japanese food amid the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The number of Singaporean visitors plunged 83 percent last April from a year earlier and has only partially improved.
Yasumasa Shimizu, a director at the JNTO Singapore office, said one of the main factors for the slow recovery is that "Singaporeans still fear radiation."
Shimizu expressed hope this year's cherry blossom season might help draw greater numbers of tourists. "We hope the numbers for March to April will be better," he said.
A massive promotional campaign was mounted last year after the March 11 disasters and nuclear crisis to draw Singaporeans back, with travel agencies and airlines offering large discounts and the JNTO organizing several tourism fairs, including one with Singapore's Changi Airport.
Four tourism-related agencies from Singapore and Japan inked an accord on tourism cooperation in June to mark the city-state's support in the aftermath of the triple disasters.
The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, the Singapore Hotel Association, the Japan Association of Travel Agents and the JNTO agreed to raise mutual awareness of each country's tourist destinations, to boost collaboration and participation in travel fairs, and to support each side's advertising and promotional activities.
But at least one side's tourism industry was not affected by March catastrophe: The latest data from the Singapore Tourism Board show that Japanese visitors to Singapore increased 24 percent last year to 656,000.