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Not so many Japanese visitors are seen on Phuket but that could change

Phuket's Japan Festival: March 7

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
THE JAPAN Rak Thai festival will be held on March 7 at Queen Sirikit Park, near the Tourism Authority of Thailand office, to celebrate the strong historical connections between the two countries.

Visitors to the festival will be able to dress up in traditional Japanese clothing and be photographed in their kimonos.

Running from 3pm to 9pm, the festival will include tastings of locally made Japanese food, the chance to buy Japanese goods, plus the screening of two films from Japan, Yuki Ni Neguakoto and Beat Kids, and a display of big Japanese drums.

'Japan Rak Thai' has been organised by the Japan Club and the Tourism Association of Thailand, with the Deputy Japanese Ambassador attending.

The chairman of the club, Miyashita Kazusshi, told Phuketwan that the fourth festival would be aimed at helping to promote Phuket to Japanese travellers.

It is not going to be easy this year.

Normally, Japanese students finish their studies in February and embark on trips, often as a reward from their family, for up to a month.

But last year's Bangkok airport blockade, lasting more than a week, has frightened away people even more than the 2004 tsunami, he said.

Expected figures for March this year were well down, with virtually no forward bookings, he said.

This was because people feared being trapped in Thailand and not being able to start their jobs in Japan on time.

He said he was trying to make the point through the Japanese media that everything on Phuket was fine and there was no real danger of students becoming trapped here.

About 500 Japanese live and work on Phuket with about 300 members of the Japan Club, he said.

A lucky draw will mean someone wins a Japan Airlines flight from Bangkok to Japan.

The TAT is in the midst of road show campaigns to boost travel to Thailand from Japan and Spain.

Japan, hit harder than many other countries in the worldwide downturn, is now facing its worst economic crisis since the Second World War.

Whether a threat is real or imagined, Japanese travellers are disinclined to take risks and choose their destinations carefully, placing great importance on stability and security.

A total of 206,381 visitors came to Phuket from Japan in 2004 but that fell dramatically after the tsunami to 44,662 in 2005. The figure recovered to 115,751 in 2007.

In the first half of 2008 (the latest TAT figure available) numbers of visitors from Japan to Phuket declined more than 15 percent on 2007.

The number of visitors to Phuket from Spain in the first half of 2008 dropped by 22.64 percent.

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