In the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake in Japan, it has been almost tragically easy to overlook the impact of another recent natural disaster, the February 22 earthquake that flattened much of Christchurch, New Zealand. Communities in both countries are now digging out and rebuilding shattered lives. And while it will take a very long time for these stricken regions to recover, it's a moment when the travel community should remember that we can still play a very active, healing role.
Tourism to New Zealand makes up 10 percent of that country's annual GDP, while tourism-related GDP to Japan accounts for over 2 percent of economic activity. Christchurch and large swathes of the Canterbury region will be out of action for quite some time, but the rest of New Zealand—the adventure-centric, naturally-endowed "Land of the Long White Cloud"—is still very much open for business. For example, go and enjoy the spectacle of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup, due to be played in 11 other venues around NZ. Tournament officials reluctantly decided on March 16 that the seven games scheduled to be played in Christchurch would have to be moved, adding another emotional layer to what is sure to be an incredible festival of sporting as well as international fellowship.
The section of northeastern Japan affected by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami was even harder hit (including the ongoing nuclear crisis), but you should still consider many other parts of the country a safe and unforgettable vacation destination. For example, the southern island of Kyushu harbors some great places to visit, including atmospheric Nagasaki, the volcanic hot sands of Kagoshima, and some world-class surf over in Miyazaki. There's no doubt the Japanese people will appreciate all the support and good wishes of the international community to help them get through the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but don't forget that when the crisis passes, they will also relish the chance to say "yokoso" and show you all this great country has to offer.
This post is in support of Blog4NZ, an independent travel bloggers' initiative to offer continuing support to the victims of the Christchurch earthquake. To support ongoing earthquake-relief efforts in Japan, please consider making a donation to the Japan Society.
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