October 10, 2018
Tokyo- Tourist numbers are gradually recovering in Hokkaido about a month after a powerful earthquake struck the northern Japan prefecture on Sept. 6, sparking cancellations of accommodation bookings for a total of some 1.14 million guests there.
Mt. Hakodate Ropeway Corp., which offers transportation by gondola to and from the top of Mount Hakodate, from where the renowned night view of the city of Hakodate is enjoyed, saw the number of visitors in September tumble to about 60 pct of the year-before level.
However, there were some days with visitor numbers nearly equal to levels in usual years, including Sept. 23, in the middle of a three-day weekend in Japan, when the gondola service was used by about 10,000 people.
"It partly depends on weather, but we see the number of users rebounding steadily," said Hiroto Kobayashi, 51, of the company's business planning division. "The number of foreign tourists also seems to be bouncing back."
At the Jozankei Onsen hot spring resort in a suburb of Sapporo, the prefecture's capital, accommodation bookings for about 30,000 guests were canceled following the earthquake, which measured up to the highest 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.
The rush of cancellations prompted a local tourism association to launch a campaign to give a 2,000-yen voucher to every adult overnight guest in the resort. This campaign seems to be paying off, with an increasing number of hotels and "ryokan" Japanese-style inns fully booked, local industry sources said.
At the beginning of this month, the central government started a "Hokkaido fukko wari" (Hokkaido reconstruction discount) program to cover up to 20,000 yen per night in accommodation fees. "This is a tailwind ahead of the autumn tourist season," an official of the Jozankei Onsen association said.
"We suffered a 30 pct slump (in the number of visitors to the resort) in September, but we aim for a catch-up toward the year-end," the official stressed.
In Sapporo's city center, a food event to bring together local specialties from across Hokkaido was held from Sept. 15 to 30. Although the event period was shortened by eight days from initially planned, in the aftermath of the major quake, the main venue of the Sapporo Autumn Fest attracted a total of 1.72 million visitors, or 84.6 pct of the previous year's level.
From the town of Atsuma near the quake epicenter, the "azuma jingisukan" grilled mutton dish was featured at the food festival.
"While many events were canceled (due to the earthquake), we could support moves toward reconstruction," an official of the organizing committee said. Jiji Press
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