Looking back on 2018, the Japan Tourism Agency reached a milestone marking the tenth anniversary since its establishment. In addition, several exciting events occurred, such as the Hidden Christian Sites in Nagasaki and Amakusa were registered as world cultural heritage, and Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes, was registered as world intangible cultural heritage. Furthermore, it was decided to hold the world exposition in 2025 in Osaka for the first time in 55 years.
On the other hand, we experienced serious disasters last year, such as the heavy rain event of July 2018, the landing of typhoon 21 in September, the 2018 Hokkaido Eastern Iburi Earthquake and other major disasters, and these seriously affected tourist destinations.
Under the circumstances of these series of disasters, the JTA collaborated with various ministries and agencies, determined emergency measures and multiplexed information to make it possible for international visitors in various situations to travel safely in Japan even in emergencies such as these disasters. We also combined public and private initiatives for the quick restoration of the Kansai International Airport and established a multilingual response system at the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Call Center, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In addition, in order to rapidly restore tourism demand, we introduced the "Fukko (reconstruction) Tour Discount" in West Japan and the "Fukko (reconstruction) Discount" in Hokkaido.
Thanks to these efforts, and as a result of minimizing the impact of the disasters, the number of international visitors to Japan had been showing a tendency to slow down after the occurrence of the disasters but then recovered steadily and in December, the number exceeded 30 million people for the first time and the highest ever recorded.
In order to spread this inbound effect nationwide, and achieve the target of 40 million visitors in 2020 and 60 million in 2030, we consider it essential to promote efforts to attract visitors to the regional areas and increase their consumption.
Regarding efforts towards inbound expansion, we will strengthen our global campaigns targeting the European, North American and Australian markets and strengthen our promotional activities towards incorporating new markets. This year, large-scale events such as the Rugby World Cup 2019 Japan will be held in 12 cities around the country, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in the future. We plan to expand consumption through the extended stays of international visitors to Japan, and these events will be great opportunities to disseminate the appeal of the various regions. We will proceed with preparations through public-private sector partnerships in order to make maximum use of the effect of holding these events.
In addition, we will promote advanced digital promotion in order to invite visitors to rural areas, and to expand "koto" consumption (experience-based consumption). We will improve the satisfaction level of visitors through the enhancement of experiential tourism content through the revitalization of nighttime activities and the utilization of beaches, as well as the enhancement of attractive multilingual commentary on cultural properties, national parks, etc.
At the same time, regarding DMOs (Destination Management Organizations) in various parts of the country that will be key players in creating tourism areas, we will promote the formation and development of world-class DMOs that will tackle the development and strengthening of attractive content for international visitors.
Last year, in order to respond accurately to the diversifying needs of the rapidly increasing number of international visitors to Japan, new systems concerning tourism were enacted. Convenience for visitors to Japan was expanded by actions such as the abolition of business monopoly regulations due to the enforcement of the Revised Licensed Tour Guide- Interpreter Act, the introduction of the registration system for land operators by the enforcement of the Revised Travel Agency Act, and the enforcement of the Private Lodging Business Act as private lodging businesses based on the development of that law began. In particular, regarding private lodging businesses, we will continue to cooperate with related ministries and local governments, to eliminate illegal private lodging businesses, improve the convenience of the registration system, and continue to strive to promote healthy, safe private lodging.
Further, in order to make the tourism industry a key industry, it is urgently necessary to resolve the shortage of talented personnel. At the Japan Tourism Agency, we will create an environment where women and senior citizens can be active, and will support the promotion of productivity improvement more efficiently and effectively.
Also, last year the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act was revised and will come into enforcement from April this year. We will continue to improve the environment for accepting international talent in the accommodation industry.
Regarding the outbound situation, we will strongly promote outbound travel, because it is also extremely important from the perspective of our diplomatic policy to deepen mutual understanding through mutual exchanges with other countries. We will proceed with the establishment of a cross-sectional organization by calling for the Japan Tourism Agency and the travel industry to integrate with the Ministry of Affairs and Government and the economic and educational circles, in order to cultivate new attractive destinations through the public and private sectors. Especially, we will promote the national movement to expand the "overseas experience" of young people. We also promote to build a travel safety information-sharing platform to secure international tourists' safety.
Furthermore, in October this year we will hold the G20 Tourism Ministerial Meeting in Kutchan-cho, Hokkaido. As the president country, we will lead the discussion on global issues in the tourism field and will disseminate our tourism policy and the attractiveness of sightseeing in our country to the world.
Taking advantage of the revenue of the International Tourist Tax that will be collected newly from January this year, the Japan Tourism Agency will endeavor to achieve the goals set in the “Tourism Vision” (the vision of tourism policy formulated by the government in March 2016), together with the entire government, and the unity of the public and private sectors.
As I conclude my New Year's greetings, I would like to ask all the people in tourism related fields and the citizens of Japan for your continued understanding and cooperation.
Japan Tourism Agency
January 1, 2019