Japan seeks to revitalize tourism

This week the Japanese prime minister is meeting with the president of the World Travel & Tourism Council and secretary general of the World Tourism Organization to discuss how to improve the disaster-stricken country’s tourism industry.

Following the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, both inbound and outbound travel suffered significantly. However, the decline in international tourism has been reversing in recent months, while outbound travel returned to growth in in July with a 5% year-on-year increase followed by an 9% year-on-year increase in August.

Taleb Rifai, UNWTO secretary general and David Scowsill, World Travel & Tourism Council president and CEO are visiting Japan through October 6 and visited the disaster-affected areas.

“Tourists face no difficulties in accommodation, transportation or any other part of travel,” said Rifai about visiting Japan.

Both Rifai and Scowsill emphasized that Japan’s tourism market is set to bounce back to pre-disaster levels.

“Travel and tourism accounts for 9% of gross domestic product globally and 7% of gross domestic product in Japan. The industry is working hard to drive the recovery process and we anticipate that business will return to normal levels in 2012,” said Scowsill.

Such grounds for optimism are partly the result of the appreciating yen, boosting overseas travel and positive news on the containment at the Fukushima nuclear plant. A new marketing campaign by the Japan Tourism Agency is being launched which will include public-private partnership initiatives.

STR Global data shows that hotel room demand in Japan improved in June and July relative to previous months since the quake but was still roughly 5% lower than June and July 2010.

According to Oxford Economics estimates, domestic travel demand was only 2% lower in the three months to July 2011 than in the same period in 2010, and may even have been marginally higher than a year earlier in July.