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United First Foreign Airline to Resume Regular Sendai Flights

June 22, 2011 by

Here’s a sliver of good news for Japan tourism: United announced today that it will resume twice-weekly flights to Sendai, Japan – the city closest to the March 11 earthquake’s epicenter – beginning October 2; it’s the first foreign airline to touch down regularly at the airport since it reopened April 13.

Visitor numbers fell by 73 percent immediately after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake devastated the country, fueled a tsunami, and set off a nuclear crisis, according to the Japan Times, but United’s restart of Sendai flights is one of a handful of signs that travelers are warming up to the idea of returning to the country.

Last month, the Japan National Tourism Organization issued a major deal for U.S.-based travelers – $780 for a round-trip flight to Tokyo and four nights’ lodging – and it sold out within two days. Delta brought back its flights from LAX and Detroit to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on June 2 and 16, respectively. And on July 1, American plans to revive its direct route from JFK to Haneda.

The proof, of course, is in the numbers, and they are improving (albeit slowly): In April 2011, Japan had 62.5 percent fewer tourists compared to the year before; by May, that number rose to just 50 percent of its 2010 level.

What do you think? Are you ready to visit Japan again? Tell us in the comments.

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