TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taipei-based carriers are optimistic about a surge in tourist travel by Taiwanese people to Japan due to a depreciating Japanese yen, despite the fallout from the sagging domestic economy.
China Airlines (CAL), Taiwan’s largest carrier, said Monday that Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe’s policy of driving down the value of the yen is expected to benefit local airlines operating flights to Japan in 2013.
According to CAL statistics, seats on round-trip Taiwan-Japan flights on New Year’s Day and over the Lunar New Year holiday (Feb. 10-Feb. 17) are already 90-95 percent booked.
Japan has long been a favored destination for Taiwanese tourists and as a result, Japan-bound flights are seen as very lucrative for local airlines.
However, CAL officials said the sluggish economy has taken a toll on travel to Japan recently, although he added that the cheaper yen will make it more affordable for Taiwanese people.
Offering as an example bookings for flights to Japan in non-holiday periods ahead of the Lunar New Year, the officials said tickets sales are down compared with the same period of last year.
They ascribed this to Taiwan’s dull economy and smaller year-end bonuses for most employees, which has made them refrain from making pleasure trips overseas.
On average, Taiwan’s people make around 1.3-1.4 millon visits to Japan every year, outnumbering Japanese tourist arrivals to Taiwan, which slightly exceed 1 million per year.
TransAsia Airways, Taiwan’s third-largest aviation company, also predicted further growth in travel by Taiwanese tourists to Japan thanks to the cheaper yen.
More than 90 percent of the seats on its fights to Hokkaido, one of Japan’s most popular destinations among Taiwanese tourists, have been booked during the Japan-February period, TransAsia officials said.