The U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) recently reported that tours and vacation packages to Japan and Egypt are rebounding.
While most USTOA companies serving Japan proactively canceled trips following the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami that took place on March 11, two thirds of members responding to a new, informal survey said that they plan to resume their departures by the end of April. Two USTOA companies—Super Value Tours and Goway Travel—are currently operating programs to Japan, while two other member companies are scheduling departures for June and beyond.
According to Roy Liao of Super Value Tours, whose company had guests arriving in Japan the day of the earthquake, “There is quite a bit of misinformation … about the current state of Japan … This is particularly unfortunate because the country needs support from the tourism industry now, more than ever.”
One Super Value guest, Margaret Miller, from the San Francisco Bay area, said, “Our trip was wonderful. We were taken great care of by [tour guide] Maiko. Her generous and loving spirit did much to calm any anxieties that the group had. I have never been to Japan, so I was struck by the grace of the Japanese people.”
Another passenger on the same tour said, “Maiko was essentially my Japanese ambassador who helped me, seven Canadians, and 13 of my fellow Americans to relax and make the most of what was left of our time in Japan. We missed a few planned events on our itinerary, but she helped us pick up right where we left off. Despite the disaster Japan was undoubtedly one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever been to.”
More Companies are Returning to Egypt
Developments in Egypt continue to be positive. Since the last informal member poll taken on Feb. 28, seven out of 11 responding USTOA companies now say they are returning to Egypt earlier than previously anticipated. In fact, by May 1, three-quarters of responding member companies will have returned to Egypt, reported Terry Dale, USTOA president.
Another two companies will include the destination beginning in May, and an additional three companies plan to resume Egypt departures in the fall, at the beginning of the traditional tourist season, observed Dale.
Dale cited initial reports from a USTOA company, saying that their first clients came back “absolutely ecstatic” with their trip. According to a company representative, there were so few tourists that they had unprecedented access to all the sites. The company added that all their passengers commented on how welcoming the Egyptians are.
“Travelers’ actual experiences to Egypt have been highly positive,” noted Dale. “But, perceptions may differ. Although some of our USTOA membera said they are getting requests for travel to Egypt, about half of responding companies said they are still receiving cancellations from people scheduled for future trips to Egypt.”
USTOA Calls for Travelers to Support Egypt and Japan
Dale also urged the travel industry and community to rally together in their support of both Japan and Egypt.
“Both Egypt and Japan—while highly different countries—have many similarities,” said Dale. “They are rich in history and culture, and their people are warm, welcoming and hospitable to travelers. Both countries provide travelers with a rich and rewarding travel experience, and they deserve our support. Travel is not only about sights, it’s about getting to know people and cultures.”
“That’s where tour operators and vacation packagers come in. Their local guides and representatives not only help travelers learn about a destination. They are there to go the extra mile, to help travelers through unforeseen situations that can arise anytime and anyplace. Our USTOA member companies helped travelers navigate the unrest in Egypt, going to extraordinary lengths to get their passengers home safely. In Japan, tours were rerouted and tour escorts were there to assist travelers, providing a safe and rewarding experience for all passengers.”