Japan's tourism industry to recover by early 2012

wing clear signs of recovery for 2012 following the tsunami earlier this year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

In the WTTC's second quarterly report into Japan's recovery, which uses data from the Japan National Tourism Organisation and STR Global, foreign visitor numbers in June and July were 36% lower than in the same period last year. In comparison, visitor numbers fell 62% in April and 50% in May.

The report, The Tohoku Pacific earthquake and tsunami: impact on travel and tourism - update September 2011, also shows demand for hotel rooms improved in June and July compared to previous months but was still around 5% down on June and July 2010.

The improving yen and containment at the Fukushima nuclear plant are likely to be behind the optimistic findings, said the WTTC. Japan's inbound tourism recovery will be further helped by a forceful marketing campaign by the Japan Tourism Agency, it added.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: "As the world's largest travel and tourism economy in the world, the recovery of Japan is one of the most compelling issues facing?the industry anywhere in the world."

Prior to the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Japan's travel and tourism industry was expected to provide nearly 1.5 million jobs in 2011 and?to directly contribute 2.2% of total Japan's gross domestic product.

The news of a recovery has been backed up by specialists to the destination. Tour operator InsideJapan Tours said departures were almost back to normal figures by September compared to June when bookings were only 60% of those in the same month a year earlier. Although there is still "some work to do for the usual peak autumn months, normal booking levels are expected to return by Novermber, said the operator.? Strong hotel deals and flight prices are expected to aid the recovery.

An InsideJapan Tours spokesman said: "With the Japan women's football team winning the world cup, a summer full of festivals and the autumn's leaf viewing season on the horizon, there is much to be positive about in Japan. Six months on from the biggest earthquake in its history, the sun is most definitely shining in the Land of the Rising Sun."

The WTTC plans to give?a further update on Japan later this year and a final report in April next year, a year after