Will Tourists Flock Back to Noto Peninsula Amid Quake Recovery?

Will Tourists Flock Back to Noto Peninsula Amid Quake Recovery?

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Noto Sakura Station
Picture: yoshihiro52 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Tourism in Hokuriku took a heavy hit post-quake. Are tourists ready to return to the Noto Peninsula? A new survey brings some good news.

The Noto Earthquake of January 2024 shook Japan, setting a challenging tone for the year ahead. Now, over four months later, signs of recovery emerge in Ishikawa, Toyama, and Fukui prefectures, enticing tourists back with travel deals to the Hokuriku region. Yet, amidst this recovery, Noto Peninsula, the quake’s epicenter, still grapples with its aftermath.

Fortunately, a recent report shows, tourist interest in the area endures, hinting at a promising future for the Hokuriku region.

Keeping the interest alive

Squid King (ikakingu) sculpture, Noto
The famous “Squid King” sculpture in Noto. (Picture: sorairo / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

Following the earthquake, the affected region—spanning Fukui, Toyama, and Ishikawa prefectures—saw a sharp drop in tourist numbers. Recovery efforts understandably took center stage in the early months. Yet, by February, places like Kanazawa City were already beckoning tourists to return. However, tourists remained cautious, showing strong hesitation in revisiting the region.

The latest survey from the JTB Institute hints at a promising turnaround. This study looked into how the earthquake impacted inbound tourists’ intentions to visit Hokuriku and Japan. Results showed that 71.9% of respondents expressed a keen interest in visiting Japan, with the highest enthusiasm observed among those in their 20s and 30s.

Yet, they’re also attuned to the earthquake’s impact on their travel plans. Of those contemplating a visit, 23.1% admitted they’d hold off exploring the entire Hokuriku region for a while.

However, another group of respondents signals a potential shift in recovery dynamics. Among them, 26.3% discovered Hokuriku through the earthquake, and 27.7% are eager to learn more about the local situation on the Noto Peninsula.

This could be a silver lining for the entire region, particularly for Noto, which may continue to endure hardship for a while longer.

Advertisements

The Hokuriku region, much like the rest of Japan, weathered the storm of two years of COVID-19 border closures. In 2020, tourism hit rock bottom, but by 2023, it clawed its way back, nearing pre-pandemic levels. Despite a slower pace compared to the national average, the Hokuriku area still managed to host 90,000 guests last year. According to the Japan Tourism Bureau, awareness of Hokuriku among inbound travelers reached 23.3% in 2023, with a visitation intention of 9.5%, largely drawn by its stunning natural landscapes and invigorating hot springs.

Ishikawa emerged as the standout among the three prefectures, drawing the highest number of visitors and garnering the most praise. According to the Visit Japan Lab’s survey, eight out of the top 10 Hokuriku attractions for inbound tourists were in Ishikawa Prefecture, particularly in Kanazawa. This trend is further confirmed by the 2022 data, with Ishikawa hosting 80,750 tourists, compared to Toyama’s 23,990 and Fukui’s 10,790 visitors.

Yet, there’s one area that often slips under the radar: the Noto Peninsula, the center of the tragedy. Despite being part of the bustling Ishikawa Prefecture, its tourism potential is often overshadowed by neighboring Kanazawa.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, around 30% of Ishikawa visitors make their way to Noto. The year 2015 marked a milestone with the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, bringing a surge in visitors, particularly from Tokyo.

Before the earthquake, Noto Peninsula welcomed approximately 7.7 million visitors annually. But in January 2024, everything shifted. Today, the Noto Peninsula stands as the focal point of ongoing tourism struggles and robust reconstruction efforts.

The Noto Peninsula earthquake, hitting with a force of 7, shook Japan’s western region on January 1st. Beyond the tragic human toll, its impact rippled through the vibrant tourism industry of Hokuriku.
Visitor numbers plummeted immediately across Ishikawa, Fukui, Toyama, and extended to Niigata. Ishikawa Prefecture, for instance, saw a staggering 22% drop in January, followed by an 8% decline in February.

While we’ve covered the lodging struggles in Kanazawa before, other regions faced similar challenges. Cancellations poured in steadily, impacting businesses across the affected areas. Awara City in Fukui Prefecture felt a significant tremor with a strong magnitude 5 quake, damaging 33 facilities. Despite most escaping unscathed, around 2,066 reservations were canceled for stays until the 31st. Toyama and Niigata weren’t spared either, with Toyama reporting around 2 billion yen in losses and Niigata recording 9,166 cancellations by January 26th.

Amidst all this, a wave of travel discounts and enticing promotional packages has swept in. From government-backed initiatives to unique offerings at the prefectural level, there’s been a flurry of activity. Chief among them is the Hokuriku Support Discount, boasting a hefty budget of 9.44 billion yen allocated for travel across the four prefectures. This initiative promises a maximum discount of 50% on travel expenses, coupled with significant reductions in accommodation costs.

The efforts have paid off, with Kanazawa city buzzing with inquiries and reservations since mid-May, and other regions also making strides toward recovery. Meanwhile, Noto Peninsula continues to grapple, welcoming only relief aid and family reunions since the year began.

The path to full healing

Wajima, Noto Peninsula
Wajima, Noto Peninsula. (Picture: ishikawakenmin / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
)

The tide is turning towards recovery for all four regions. Support packages have yielded real progress, while detailed disaster information has sparked new interest in Hokuriku among inbound tourists. With this momentum, the once-struggling Hokuriku area may soon see a fresh surge in travel.

But amidst this positive outlook, Noto Peninsula will continue to bide its time. While not initially part of the Hokuriku Support Discount, the Noto region is gearing up to launch its own robust stimulus package, offering discounts of up to 70%. However, this will only happen when the time is right to welcome tourists back.

“The recovery of Noto is crucial. […] As we’re in the same Ishikawa Prefecture, we hope Kanazawa will firmly support Noto, and when it’s recovered, we want to be an entity that contributes to the excitement of both areas as tourist destinations,” voiced Kikuta Shoji, manager of Kanazawa Sainoniwa Hotel.

As we eagerly await that time, exploring the rest of Hokuriku could be the perfect way to stand in solidarity with the affected areas and bolster struggling businesses. Of course, it’s crucial to stay informed about the situation in each area and plan our travels accordingly.

Sources

能登地震後のインバウンドの意識、欧米豪の旅行者「特に影響ない」が3割、JTB総研が12か国・地域を調査 トラベルボイス

アジア・欧米豪訪日外国人旅行者の意向調査 2023年度版 DBJ株式会社 北陸支店・富山事務所

北陸三県の訪日外国人延べ宿泊者数の推移 北陸経済連合会

令和2年度訪日外国人旅行者受入環境整備緊急対策事業 国土交通省 北陸信越運輸局

石川県の日本人観光来訪者数、2024年1月休日は前年比 PR Times

地震被害小さい福井・あわら温泉でキャンセル相次ぐ…カニやスキーのシーズン、悩む関係者「利用呼びかけていいのか」 Yomiuri Shimbun

能登半島地震 新潟県内の宿泊施設 客戻ってきているところも NHK

能登半島地震 富山県の宿泊キャンセルなど損失額 推計約20億円 NHK

「北陸応援割」に94億円 観光庁 能登半島は別途、手厚い支援 観光経済新聞

能登地震復興へ年度内に追加支出 観光割、3月にも開始 日本経済新聞

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy