by By Michael C. Lowe | July 01, 2011

Following the March 11 earthquake, subsequent tsunami and nuclear emergency, Japanese hotels are seeing decreases in hotel occupancy, dropping 21.3 percent in March and 27.6 percent in April, year-over-year, according to a report released last month from STR Global.

Tokyo, which is 124 miles south of the nuclear site, saw occupancy fall from 83 percent to 55 percent in March, yet is among areas the U.S. State Department has deemed without risk of radiation contamination. Only cities within a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant pose significant risks, according to an alert issued by the U.S. on May 16.

"The majority of regions in Japan, including popular leisure travel destinations, are outside the areas affected by tsunami, earthquake and radiation, and received no disruption to infrastructure," said the Japanese National Tourism Office in a statement.

Still, some planners have struggled to keep delegates from defecting from meetings. "Many of our members are university faculty from countries with travel restrictions to Japan, so they were unable to attain funding to attend, but there also were registrants who just weren't comfortable being that close to the reactors," said Tunga Kiyak, managing director of the East Lansing, Mich.-based Academy of International Business, which held a conference in late June in Nagoya, about 285 miles from the nuclear site. Attendance, expected to be 1,200, was 900.

On the other hand, vigorous efforts to keep attendees informed paid off for some groups. "There was anxiety over food supplies, transportation and so on," said June Leach-Barnaby, senior planner for the IEEE Communications Society, whose international conference was held last month in Kyoto, southwest of Tokyo. "But we spent a lot of time gathering the right information and saw very little impact during the show."