U.S. Tour Groups Returning to Japan

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Travel to Japan is already creeping back after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to an informal survey of U.S. Tour Operators Association members, with two tour companies – El Monte, Calif.-based Super Value Tours and Goway Travel in Los Angeles – leading the pack.

"We have a departure scheduled for the end of April, although we'll continue monitoring the situation," Roy Liao of Super Value Tours in El Monte, Calif. told AOL Travel News.

Upcoming tours will bypass the most affected areas in favor of the Kansai region, which includes Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, as well as points further south. Travelers can still fly in and out of Tokyo's Narita Airport, which handles roughly 90% of international arrivals, Liao said.

Surprisingly, the company has received few calls from clients worried about water and air safety, he said, adding: "We're seeing that people have already made up their minds about whether they want to go."

Liao said the "information gap" and confusion coming out of Japan, which portrayed the entire country as a disaster zone, has begun to stabilize, and now potential travelers have a more clear picture of what is going on in the regions they want to visit.

"If there is anything Japan needs, it's support from everyone, and contributing to tourism and travel is one of the ways people can support the country," he said.

As to travel insurance, Liao said he recommends it no matter the destination, because "you never know."

In all, two thirds of USTOA members say they'll resume operations to Japan as early as this month.

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