Entering a Crucial Stage in 2017 Towards Building a World-Class Tourist Destination
Last year, international visitors to Japan topped 20 million for the first time, reaching around 24 million. Visitor spending for that year increased significantly to nearly 4 trillion yen, surpassing the record set in 2015. 2016 saw continued solid growth of demand by international visitors for tourism in Japan.
Additionally, hopeful signs were found in trends of Japanese tourists, with more Japanese visiting tourist sites in Japan and overseas in 2016 than in 2015.
However, Japan unfortunately suffered many natural disasters in 2016. Earthquakes hit Kumamoto Prefecture in April and the central area of Tottori Prefecture in October, and typhoons caused damage in Hokkaido in August. These natural disasters adversely affected tourism in the afflicted regions.
In light of the lessons learned from the experience of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) promptly took measures to support disaster-stricken districts according to their circumstances. For example, the JTA took the initiative in developing a comprehensive program for supporting the revival of tourism in Kyushu. The JTA has been helping to accelerate this revival by using fukko-wari, a special campaign in which tours to Kyushu that are planned and offered by travel agencies are supported and in which government subsidies are given to travelers, and by making intensive efforts to attract international visitors to Kyushu. These efforts have proven effective, and Japanese tourists visiting and staying in Kyushu have been increasing to a level comparable to the number of Japanese tourists elsewhere in Japan. The number of foreign guests staying at hotels and inns in Kyushu has also shown some signs of picking up. In some months, the number of foreign guests exceeded the number for the same month the year before. For Hokkaido and Tottori, the JTA is also making efforts to reduce the reputational risk affecting these prefectures and to enhance recovery in tourism demand.
In March of last year, the Japanese government formulated the “New Tourism Strategy to Invigorate the Japanese Economy,” which consists of mid- to long-term policies for the future.
In this tourism strategy, the government set targets of "40 million international visitors in 2020” and “spending by international visitors of 8 trillion yen in Japan in 2020.” The whole government is determined to realize “a world-class tourist destination” by making the most of a diverse natural environment, a rich history and culture, seasonal diversity and world-class cuisine, all of which Japan can boast to the world. These are the four fundamental pillars for promoting tourism. (For additional information, please visit our website at http://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/topics01_000205.html )
The government has been making efforts to make Japan “a world-class tourist destination,” and the tourism strategy will take full-fledged form in 2017.
With the aim of fostering innovation in the tourism industry to boost its international competitiveness and developing it into a core industry, the “New Tourism Strategy to Invigorate the Japanese Economy” requires a drastic review of the regulations and restrictions related to tourism, which were created more than 60 years ago. Specifically, the JTA intends to submit the following bills to the Diet during its ordinary session in 2017: a bill on minpaku (private house-sharing services for international vistors) and bills to revise the Travel Agency Act and the Licensed Guide Interpreters Act. Additionally, MBA programs in tourism will be newly established at universities and other efforts will be made to foster and strengthen human resources for the tourism industry.
Furthermore, in order to help develop regional communities nationwide by utilizing historical resources such as antique houses that remain in farming, fishing and mountain villages, we will actively support the efforts of motivated communities on a one-stop basis together with the public and private sectors. The attractiveness of tourism resources will be highlighted through the establishment of world-class DMOs and the improvement of world-class wide-area tour routes. Also, we will conduct strategic marketing to attract long-stay travelers from Europe, the U.S., and Australia, as well as affluent consumers in other countries, so that visitor spending will further increase.
For the purpose of enhancing the comfort of each and every international visitor, the JTA will cooperate with relevant ministries and agencies to improve every aspect of the services that international visitors enjoy during their stays in Japan. These services include CIQ, telecommunication, transportation and cashless payment.
All the efforts mentioned above are stated in the “New Tourism Strategy to Invigorate the Japanese Economy.”. By implementing these efforts steadily and as early as possible, we can make “a Japan that the world wants to visit.”
To that end, the understanding, cooperation and active involvement of the public are necessary. Tourism in the future is expected to play a significant role as a key industry. This is because, in addition to having direct effects, tourism has ripple effects beyond the tourism industry, and policies will be geared to increasing such effects. Tourism will be able to provide men and women of all ages with opportunities to work actively in their local areas. In this regard, the active involvement of the public is indispensable for the government’s plan for “the dynamic engagement of all citizens.”
In the past few years, Japan used resources that were readily available to it for tourism development. In 2017, Japan will be facing a crucial moment in which to make intense efforts to establish itself as “a world-class tourist destination” as we move towards 2020. The whole government, including the JTA, will continue to enthusiastically pursue everything possible to realize such a country. The cooperation and commitment of those in the tourism sector as well as all other citizens will be greatly appreciated.
Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency