Tour groups cancel trips to Japan after quakes

More bodies have been pulled out from debris, following Japan's deadly earthquake.
Last Saturday, an earthquake struck Kyushu, just two days after a temblor hit the city of Kumamoto. A total of 44 people died.
Last Saturday, an earthquake struck Kyushu, just two days after a temblor hit the city of Kumamoto. A total of 44 people died. PHOTO: REUTERS

Tour agencies both in Singapore and abroad have cancelled tours to Japan or postponed them after two earthquakes struck the Kyushu region last week.

Groups from China, South Korea and Taiwan - the three biggest sources of visitors to Japan - have scrapped trips during what would usually be the peak spring travel season, according to a Bloomberg report. Tour agencies in Singapore also told The Straits Times they have either done the same, or tweaked itineraries of tours to avoid affected areas.

Five million Chinese visited Japan last year - out of 19.7 million foreign visitors, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation. South Korea ranked second with 4 million, followed by Taiwan, with 3.7 million. Singapore was eighth, with 308,800 visitors.

Last Saturday, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Japan's Kyushu region. The quake, which hit at a shallow depth of 10km, toppled buildings and buckled roads and power lines.

It came just two days after a 6-magnitude temblor hit the city of Kumamoto in Kyushu.

A total of 44 people are known to have died in the double disaster, with eight still missing and over 1,000 injured, according to Reuters news agency. Rescuers are digging through mud and rubble for the missing, but hopes of finding them alive are dim.

At least two tour agencies - Chan Brothers Travel and ASA Holidays have cancelled tours that were supposed to depart this week, out of concern for customer safety.

ASA Holidays said some of its customers decided to postpone their trip. The agency also changed the itinerary of another trip that departed on Sunday - the group of 21 travellers was diverted to Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu.

"We have two more departure dates in the month of May and these are still under observation. In the meantime, we are coming up with a contingency plan should there be any changes," said the agency.

Still, the agencies added that most Japan tours will continue unaffected for now.

Ms Jane Chang, head of marketing communications for Chan Brothers Travel, said the agency has "several groups departing daily to Japan from now till the end of April, as this is a peak cherry blossom season".

"In fact, bookings and enquiries for travel to Japan remain consistent," said Ms Chang, adding that demand for travel to Kyushu made up less than 15 per cent of the company's demand for Japanese trips.

Dynasty Travel's director of public relations and communications Alicia Seah said: "The more popular cities, such as central Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) with their theme parks and Hokkaido, are not affected."

Many travellers to these regions were also unfazed.

Mr Lim Wei Li, 30, returned home on Sunday morning after honeymooning in central Japan for a week. The finance executive said the mood in Tokyo was mostly calm.

"I wasn't scared; I didn't even know there was an earthquake until messages from my family came in," said Mr Lim.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Tour groups cancel trips to Japan after quakes'. Subscribe