Japan targets inbound resurgence

JAPAN, whose inbound tourism took a hit from the March disasters, is intending to launch several new initiatives to bring recovery to visitor numbers, once a bigger promotional budget is approved by year-end.

At the opening of Visit Japan Travel Mart 2011, Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), international tourism promotion division, director, Shuichi Kameyama, said the body was requesting for a budget of 6.37 billion yen (US$82 million) for its 2012 fiscal year, up from 6.06 billion yen previously.

This amount will fund new projects such as Fly to Japan, which will see 10,000 overseas visitors obtaining free air tickets, relying on word of mouth to project the image of Japan as a safe tourist destination. JTA also plans to host 200 youths from China – its second-most important source market – in conjunction with the country’s 40th anniversary of normalisation of diplomatic ties with Beijing.

The bulk of the budget will then go to marketing promotions as part of the ongoing Visit Japan campaign as well as MICE-specific support.

Said Kameyama: “We want to expand our target markets from the current 15, and are hoping to add Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Indonesia and Vietnam are the most important among them because of their speed of economic development and the possible increase in airlines (flying between the countries) because of open skies agreements.”

He added that while initial efforts in those countries would be “small steps” such as hosting of fam trips, money would also be spent on advertising in the future, depending on the rate of growth.

According to latest figures, Japan’s number of foreign visitors from January to October was 5,095,400, still 30 per cent down compared to the same period last year. While some markets like Taiwan and Hong Kong showed positive growth over last October, Japan’s top market – South Korea – continued to post sharp negative growth.

In order to further restore demand for inbound travel, JTA launched a Japan Big Welcome Campaign last week. Running until March 31, 2012, countrywide discounts are offered in partnership with retail and F&B outlets, hotels and transport operators.

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