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Rich Chinese tourists still pick Japan amid tensions

TOKYO--Continued icy relations between Beijing and Tokyo over a territorial dispute have not put off rich Chinese travelers, who picked Japan as their top holiday destination for 2014.

This was found in the latest annual survey by Travelzoo Asia Pacific, a licensee of global Internet media company Travelzoo.

Japan was the choice of 29 percent of Travelzoo Asia Pacific's Chinese subscribers.

The survey was conducted online from Nov. 25 to Dec. 15 last year, shortly before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Dec. 26 homage to Japan's war dead at the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which infuriated China and South Korea as they see Yasukuni as a monument to Japan's past militarism.

Affluent, with an annual household income of US$50,000, Travelzoo's Chinese subscribers are said to be typical of the new generation of Chinese travelers, who not only go abroad frequently but are also well-educated and sophisticated in their tastes.

They lead the region in travel frequency, making 6.5 leisure trips a year and are expected to spend an estimated total of US$8,200 each in 2014.

Shopping for souvenirs for themselves and friends is a top priority for Chinese tourists to Japan.

Beijing resident Liu Yu, 33, visited Tokyo and Sapporo for two weeks last month, his third trip to Japan since 2010.

“I like sports, so I bought sports equipment and shoes. I also bought snow gear as I like skiing,” said the executive with a real estate firm.

“My purchases included one of the latest models of Adidas sports shoes which were discounted by as much as 50 percent in Japan, making them 20-30 percent cheaper than in China,” said Liu, whose total shopping bill came to over 30,000 yuan (US$4,958).

Like most Chinese tourists, he visited the mammoth discount stores in Tokyo that sell everything from tablet devices to beauty products.

His haul included high-definition binoculars, iPhone accessories “as they are cheaper here than in China,” as well as Japanese cosmetics and skincare goods for friends.

In the surveys for 2012 and 2013, most of Travelzoo's Chinese subscribers said they preferred to holiday in Australia, their desire to visit Japan dampened by bilateral tensions, especially over Tokyo's 2011 nationalization of the Senkaku islands, which China calls Diaoyu and also claims.

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