Published on : Saturday, March 7, 2020
The restaurants at the Exitmelsa shopping center in Tokyo’s chic Ginza district are usually packed with Chinese tourists. But now, many lunchtime tables are empty, and this is a telltale sign that corona virus is impacting tourism significantly.
For Japanese who have grown dependent on Chinese tourists for business, it is indeed a disconcerting trend.
“People on group tours would gather together at noon, and 10 or 20 of them would come in all at once,” said waiter Kiyotake Watanabe, who works at a Chinese restaurant in the shopping center. Those customers vanished after China banned overseas group tours in January.
Just months before the 2020 Olympics, this jolt to tourism might signify a broader economic impact from the corona virus for both Japan and the global economy. Japan could be at risk especially because of its increased reliance on Chinese tourism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies.
Nomura Securities had forecast a 240 billion Yen ($2.3 billion) increase from event-related tourism this year, which it said would disappear if the Olympics are canceled, although organizers have said that delaying or moving the games is not an option. Last year, Japan hosted 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent 4.81 trillion Yen.
Although most cases of corona virus are in China, more new infections are appearing outside that country.
For Japan, which has seen more than 1,000 confirmed infections, this year was supposed to be a record year for foreign arrivals and a boon for an economy already on the brink of recession.