The West

Strong dollar gives yen to see Japan
Tourists travel on a ferry near blooming cherry blossoms on the Okazaki canal on April 5, 2013 in Kyoto, Japan. Cherry blossoms bloom from the end of March to the beginning of April in Kyoto. Picture: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Australian tourists are flocking to Japan as a strong dollar combined with a weak yen drives down the cost of holidays in the land of the rising sun.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released this week reveal a 39.4 per cent increase in departures to Japan for February compared with the same time last year.

The Australian dollar smashed through parity last week, with one dollar buying 104.6 yen yesterday.

"Generally, because of the strength of the Australian dollar, people have considered destinations that in the past would have been perceived as expensive, and Japan would be one of them," Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury said.

He said Japan had ramped up its destination marketing in Australia after the Fukushima nuclear plant reactor meltdown, after which tourism to the island nation slowed.

Japan promoted itself as a ski destination for Australians, being closer and more cost-effective than Europe and the US, he said. The effect of so many Australians heading to Japan might also be an increase in interest in Australia from Japanese tourists.

"The fact we're going back there means more of them may be coming back here," Flight Centre State manager Justin Michael said.

"Japan, from a ski resort perspective, is getting a reputation of great quality."

Mr Michael said packages tours were becoming slightly cheaper.

Ski resort town Niseko is one of the hotspots for Australians.

But there are no direct flights from Perth to Japan after Qantas shut down its flights to Narita in May 2011 amid record high fuel prices.

New Zealand is still the top overseas destination for Australians, with 94,900 trips in February.

Indonesia was next with 75,900 trips and the US attracted 73,200 visits.

Japan was the ninth most popular overseas destination in February, with 17,300 departures.

'The fact we're going back there means more of them may be coming back here.' " Flight Centre manager *Justin Michael *

The West Australian

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