The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 27, 2012)
Brainstorm to attract more tourists to Japan
We hope the government and the private sector will make concerted efforts to convey to the world the appeal of Japan as a tourist destination.
For the first time in five years, the government has developed a new master plan to boost the nation's tourism. The new Tourism Nation Promotion Basic Plan contains various policy targets to be achieved over five years from fiscal 2012.
The number of foreign visitors to Japan--both tourists and businesspeople--reached a record 8.61 million in 2010, but the number plummeted to 6.22 million in 2011 due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The numbers are alarming--the 2010 figure only ranked 30th in the world. In Asia, Japan lags far behind China, which recorded 55.66 million tourists in 2010, the third-largest number in the world. Japan also trails such countries as Singapore and South Korea.
We believe attracting more tourists from Asia and other developing areas would contribute to reinvigorating local cities, towns and villages and help the nation rebuild from the March 11, 2011, disaster.
The new plan sets a goal of increasing the number of foreign visitors to Japan to 18 million by 2016, more than twice the number seen in 2010. It also expects peoples' annual spending while traveling within the country--including Japanese travelers--to grow from 25 trillion yen to 30 trillion yen. However, both goals are not easy to achieve.
Tell the world Japan is safe to visit
First of all, the government and the public sector need to actively convey information to the world to dispel the false idea that travel to Japan is dangerous.
Last week, the World Travel & Tourism Council held a summit meeting of industry leaders for the first time in Japan. More than 1,000 people, including officials of major U.S. and European companies and media figures, participated in the event.
We urge the government to proactively campaign to hold more international meetings in Japan--which would bring together many foreigners with strong influence in their home countries--and thoroughly promote the safety of Japan at those gatherings.
A blog written by a Swiss man who reported on his recent walk across Japan has gained worldwide popularity. Such grassroots activities to introduce Japan have a major effect in publicizing the nation. It may be worthwhile for the government to encourage foreign students in Japan to convey the attractiveness and safety of the nation to people in their home countries.
About 3-1/2 years have passed since the Tourism Agency celebrated its inauguration. However, it is difficult to say that the agency has fulfilled its role as the leader of the nation's tourism policies due to budget constraints and human resource shortages. It needs to clarify the division of roles between itself and the Japan National Tourism Organization, an independent administrative institution whose tourism promotion operations overlap those of the agency.
Prepare unique tourism plans
Of course, tourist destinations also need to rack their brains to find ways to make themselves more appealing. Measures to boost local tourism led by prefectural and municipal governments often end up creating duplicate facilities or hosting events similar to those already available elsewhere in the nation.
If neighboring local governments could work hand in hand to create tourism areas that stretch beyond borders, it could increase the number of tourists who prefer to travel to a variety of tourism spots as well as increase the number of overnight tourists. Other efforts, such as selling special tickets allowing unlimited travel in certain areas and valid on different transportation systems, could also increase the number of tourists.
The Golden Week holiday period begins this weekend. We urge the tourism industry to make efforts to respond to the diversifying needs of tourists, such as developing the information infrastructure that would enable people to receive sightseeing information easily on their mobile phones and prepare experience-oriented tours combining various fields such as medical tourism, agriculture and sports.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2012)