Bear hug ban puts squeeze on Japanese

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The Independent Online

Political correctness does not come cheap, at least not where cute furry animals are concerned. That is the harsh reality being digested by tourism authorities in New South Wales after a fall in the number of Japanese visitors was blamed on the state's decision in 1995 to ban people from hugging koalas.

Political correctness does not come cheap, at least not where cute furry animals are concerned. That is the harsh reality being digested by tourism authorities in New South Wales after a fall in the number of Japanese visitors was blamed on the state's decision in 1995 to ban people from hugging koalas.

Research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the state's share of the Japanese market has dwindled, with visitor numbers down 4 per cent last year to 390,000. Queensland, where it is still legal to cuddle koalas, had 500,000 Japanese tourists. The director of the Nippon Travel Agency Australia, Yonemasa Kurihara, told the Australian Tourism Commission that Japanese are deterred because they can no longer be photographed with koalas in their arms.

However, Andrew Woodward, of the commission, said: "The market has matured. Koalas have become a bit passé." They are also wont to scratch or urinate when cuddled.

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