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New Year's Reflections from the JTA Commissioner

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Last Update : 2018/3/8

2018 is the year to "demonstrate the strength of the tourism industry."


Happy New Year!
As we welcome in 2018, I would like to extend my sincere new year’s greetings to you all.
When we look back at 2017, the number of inbound travelers reached roughly 28.7 million people, and the amount spent by those people is estimated to have exceeded 4.4 trillion yen (39 billion U.S. dollars).
Also, the number of outbound travelers from Japan is estimated to have been around 18 million people, which is an increase from last year. On the other hand, only a slight increase is expected in the overall number of domestic travelers.
Inbound travel has been growing up until now owing to Japan's underlying strength and the momentum of the market. From here on, I believe that it will be a tough uphill journey if we do not upgrade in a broad sense the tourism industry that supports the tourist regions.
As part of the "Tourism Vision to Support the Future Japan," the government is undertaking three pillars of initiatives: maximizing the attractiveness of tourism resources; boosting the international competitiveness of the tourism industry; and developing a stress-free sightseeing experience.
We particularly need to accelerate the initiatives for the tourism industry, and this will be done by addressing the lack of human resources through the provision of political measures to support increased productivity, and the development of an environment where senior citizens, women, and foreign nationals can actively take part in the industry.
In response to the forecast of further increase in tourism demand, high-level tourism measures must be implemented, and an international tourist tax will therefore be introduced from January 2019.
We hope this will enable us to accelerate the development of the travel environment in Japan, and that it will lead to higher levels of satisfaction among domestic and overseas travelers. We will continue to strive towards earning the understanding and cooperation of the people of Japan.
Furthermore, the “Licensed Tour Guide-Interpreter Act” and “Travel Agency Act” will be partially revised in January 2018, and the “Private Lodging Business Act” will be implemented in June.
We will aim to expand sound private lodging services under the regulations of the new law on private lodging.
In the revision of the Licensed Tour-Guide Interpreter Act, the review will include the abolition of the occupational licensing regulation, and the introduction of a system of regular training for nationwide licensed tour guide- interpreters in order to respond accurately to the rapidly increasing numbers of international visitors to Japan and the diversifying need for guides.
As for the revision of the Travel Agency Act, a registration system for travel service arrangement businesses (land operators) will be put in place, and provisions will be revised to facilitate the planning and sales of community-based tourism.
In addition, the ‘Discussion Committee for the Revitalization of Tourism Resources Toward Realizing "Japan, a fascinating country"’ has been created to generate more new content. The objective of this committee is to discover and improve the charm of our tourism resources, so that we can offer an enjoyable stay to travelers visiting Japan.
As part of the Visit Japan Promotion, global campaigns are being developed targeting Asia, as well as those based on market research results for the European, American, and Australian markets. Promotional activities will be implemented in line with meticulous country-specific strategies, while at the same time our digital marketing will go into full swing.
With regard to the receptive environment, the greater the number of independent travelers to different parts of Japan, the more prominent the issues are becoming. We will further promote the facilitation of communication through the leveraging of ICT, and the enhancement of tourist information services to enable everyone to enjoy sightseeing around the country in a comfortable, stress-free way. Also, in rural areas, we will promote the development of the sightseeing environment through improvements in public transportation and car-rental services, and the enhancement of free Wi-Fi facilities.
Along with these efforts, we will accelerate the establishment and development of DMOs to promote the development of tourist areas and draw out regional "earning power." Moreover, we are strategically targeting international visitors to Japan, and working to establish and develop world class DMOs (pioneering inbound-type DMOs) that develop systems to provide fascinating content utilizing the creativity and ingenuity of the regions.
In particular, in order to further accelerate the promotion of tourism development utilizing historical resources such as traditional Japanese-style houses that exist in areas like farming, mountain and fishing villages, we will actively support efforts of motivated communities by providing one-stop support through joint efforts of the public and private sectors.
On the other hand, more than 80% of Japan's travel consumption still comes from Japanese nationals' domestic and overseas travel. Therefore, efforts to increase travel consumption by Japanese nationals are also extremely important.
Regarding outbound travel, a win-win relationship in terms of increased two-way human exchange with different countries is important. In addition, since we need to further promote overseas travel among young people, who are going to drive travel demand in the future, we have created the "Discussion Committee for the Promotion of Outbound Travel Among Young People." We will continue to work on initiatives involving other government ministries and offices.
Furthermore, while a great many of the government initiatives being carried out tend to be viewed as outbound travel-oriented, in fact, they will also bring benefits to Japanese people traveling domestically in terms of convenience and improved satisfaction. Therefore, we firmly believe that our efforts are bound to contribute to stimulating domestic demand.
In addition, those visiting Japan on business are also important. Particularly, with regard to bidding for various MICE events, such as international conferences, we will reinforce Japan’s international competitiveness so that we can invite more international conferences to Japan, by further strengthening industry-academia-government collaboration.
Through the participation of not just travel agencies and accommodation businesses, but also of people from across a wide range of sectors, the JTA seeks to develop the tourism industry to make Japan a place the world wants to visit; an exciting, thrilling, relaxing, fun place people want to come back to.
In order to further develop tourism, the “public sector” of the government must create the right infrastructure, while the “private sector” of the tourism industry must apply themselves fully to the task.
I believe that 2018 will be the year in which we step up various efforts, starting with the enhancement of the tourism industry and tourist destinations, as we look toward achieving our goal by 2020 and becoming a “world-class tourism destination.”
I would like to thank the citizens of Japan and tourism professionals for your continued understanding and cooperation with tourism policy and wish you all a happy new year.

Akihiko Tamura
Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency