China's travel caps to damp holiday visits to Japan, South Korea
The number of Chinese cross-border tourists during the National Day break is expected to remain flat for the first time in years, due to a set of travel restrictions.
A survey by The Nikkei found that travel agencies in at least 14 major Chinese cities have been ordered to cap the number of group tours to Japan.
A travel agency in Jinan, a city in western China, said it was told to limit the number of tourists to Japan starting with reservations for September. Earlier the same month, authorities in the port city of Dalian sent out a notice to booking companies that only 4,000 people in the entire city of several million are allowed on Japanese group tours between October and December.
Restrictions have also been reported at Harbin, Tonghua, Shenyang, Urumqi, Zhengzhou, Yantai, Qingdao, Weifang, Wuxi, Fuzhou, Zhangzhou and Chongqing.
An increasing number of tourists holding fake passports have vanished once entering Japan, becoming unauthorized foreign workers, according to travel industry insiders from Fujian Province and elsewhere. Domestic authorities are apparently issuing travel caps to stem the tide.
"Authorities levy heavy fines whenever a traveler disappears in Japan," said a representative at a Shandong Province travel agency. "We require Japan-bound travelers to pay a security deposit of nearly 2.6 million yen (USD 23,080) per person."
The manager believes the number of Chinese tourists to Japan will not drop by much. Last year, that figure rose by 28% to 6.37 million.
Things are decidedly less rosy for South Korea.
The nation has been the agency's No. 1 overseas destination during last year's National Day break. But in March, government officials stopped issuing visas for group travel to South Korea - part of a series of retaliatory actions against Seoul's THAAD decision.
As a result, the number of Chinese travelers plummeted 70% in July from a year earlier. That is roughly the same drop-off projected for next week's holiday, which would likely cost South Korea about USD 440 million in lost profits at the low end.
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