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Economy

Chinese cities rein in group tours to Japan

Travel companies pressed to cut back amid fears of foreign currency outflow

More Chinese tourists visit Japan every year, and often do a great deal of shopping there.

CHENGDU, China -- A number of Chinese cities outside metropolitan areas are apparently taking steps to limit group tours to Japan, several travel agency staffers disclosed Thursday, in moves some see as geared at keeping foreign currency from slipping away.

China is perceived to be regulating foreign currency conditions by province and by city. Its tourists are known to shop heavily in Japan.

Tourism authorities in cities in the coastal province of Fujian and elsewhere have reportedly verbally directed travel agencies to offer fewer group tours to Japan starting this month, in some cases telling them to slash numbers by half or more. Reports have emerged of similar activity in such provinces as Hebei, Henan and Hubei.

No such limits have been confirmed in major metropolises such as Beijing, nor on individual travel. The China National Tourism Administration denies having given any orders to limit travel to Japan. But a source affiliated with China's Japan tourism industry reported having "heard something to that effect" and to be "looking into it."

There have also been reports of some Chinese travel agencies limiting trips to Japan due to visa problems. The Consulate-General of Japan in Shanghai said Thursday it was "completely untrue" that Japan-bound visa requirements had been made more stringent.

China's group tourism to South Korea also faces limits at present, owing to discord over the latter's deployment of the U.S. military's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system. Chinese visitors to Japan fell after its nationalization in 2012 of the Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu. But trips have picked back up since, and Chinese tourists' Japan shopping sprees have been widely discussed.

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