Japanese tourism leaders use Hong Kong Expo to lure visitors back

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The Independent Travel

Japanese tourism industry leaders will be out in force this week, trying to rekindle interest in their nation after the devastation wrought by March's earthquake and tsunami disasters.

A party of 20 official and private groups from the country are heading to Hong Kong for the 25th International Travel Expo - which runs from June 9 to 12 at the city's Convention and Exhibition Centre - and they'll be hoping to start reversing the post-disaster trend which has seen a massive drop in the numbers of people visiting Japan.

Visitor numbers from Hong Kong alone dropped by 90 percent in the month following the disasters - down to 5,800 in total for April, compared to 46,598 a year ago - while other traditionally strong markets for Japan such as Singapore, South Korea and China saw respective year-on-year drops of 82 percent, 66.4 percent and 49.5 percent respectively.

"I can't tell when we'll be able to recover," Japan National Tourism Organization executive director Kazunari Taguchi told local media here, but he added his organization would unveil at the Expo a number of special programs and initiatives designed to lure tourists from all over the world back to his country.

For those people not able to make the event, the official website will update daily with announcements and reports from seminars.

Organizers of the Hong Kong Expo are claiming the Japanese delegation is the largest to attend a tourism fair anywhere since March and it continues a very public push to assure the world at large that travel to - and within - Japan is safe once again.

Last month saw Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak visit disaster-hit regions of the country in an effort to show that the areas were now free from danger.

A total of 56 countries and regions have now confirmed their attendance at the International Travel Expo - the most ever and a 20 percent increase on last year.

As well as seminars for industry players, the expo will over its last two days open its doors to the general public for talks on such subjects as emerging destinations such as Brunei and trends such as online booking.

Michael Tien, head of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said in a statement the annual Expo had helped establish the city as the region's tourism "hub."

"Within the course of 25 years, visitor arrivals to Hong Kong leaped up by nine times from around four million in 1987 to over 36 million last year," he said. "Looking ahead, our tourism industry is set to go from strength to strength, with a stabilizing global economy led by the fast-growing Asian market, as well as the continued expansion of the Mainland travel market."

25th International Travel Expo

June 9-12

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre