Japan won't see big bump in Chinese tourists for Lunar New Year holiday

Mass travel is underway in China, where the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday period began on Saturday.
But the overseas destinations for Chinese travelers are limited, and Japan is not high on the list.

That's as Beijing continues to restrict tourism to the country and the Japanese government asks airlines not to increase direct flights from mainland China. Flights serving Narita Airport, near Tokyo, are still less than 40 percent of what they were four years ago. This includes flights from Hong Kong and Macau.

Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture is a popular hot spring resort. It used to attract many tourists from China.

But now they are a rare sight, even as visitors from other countries have been gradually coming back.

That's a worry for a company that runs a railway and tour boat in the area.

Ichihara Kenta, an official of Odakyu Hakone Holdings, says he hopes tourist spots in the area gradually get back to normal, even if it's at a slow pace. He says that's what businesses there really want.

The Japan National Tourism Organization estimates that 1.37 million foreign tourists visited the country in December. That's 113 more times the same month a year earlier.

But it estimates Chinese travelers accounted for only around 2 percent of the total. Before the pandemic, they comprised about 30 percent.