Japan’s overseas
travel market seen
rebounding 20% in ’04

TOKYO >> The number of Japanese tourists traveling to Hawaii and elsewhere overseas is likely to rise more than 20 percent this year, bouncing back from last year's outbreak of SARS and war in Iraq, Japan's largest travel agency forecast yesterday.

JTB In 2004, some 16.5 million Japanese are expected to travel abroad, up 23.6 percent from the estimated 13.35 million that went overseas last year, the Japan Travel Bureau said in a forecast based on a survey of nationwide agencies and industry trends.

Travelers from Japan plunged 20 percent in 2003 as severe acute respiratory syndrome spread in Asia and Canada. The war in Iraq and fears of terrorism also kept would-be overseas travelers to stay at home.

Tours have since picked up, with visitors to Europe, Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific recovering most rapidly.

Japanese travel agencies have not reported any large-scale cancellations following the confirmation this week of the first SARS case of the season that has not been contracted in a laboratory.

"There's been no special effect yet," said Hiroshi Ueno, a JTB spokesman.

The illness of a 32-year-old TV producer in Guangdong, China, was confirmed as SARS on Monday after weeks of testing. On Tuesday, the government said the man had "fully recovered" and would leave the hospital today.

Countries in the region were on the alert for a reappearance of the disease, which was first recorded in Guangdong in November 2002 and spread in Asia and beyond, killing 774 before subsiding in June.

Kinki Nippon Tourist Co., another large tour operator in Japan, has handed out information cards to guides and business travelers on how to avoid SARS and influenza, spokes- woman Eiko Sato said.


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