Revitalizing Japan’s Tourism Sector: A Modern Day Challenge

The aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 not only brought much of the country’s infrastructure to its knees, but also had a significant impact on the Japanese tourism industry as both inbound and outbound travel greatly declined.

The Importance of Tourism

As travel and tourism accounts for 7 per cent of GDP in Japan, it is clear that tourism plays an important role in the revitalization of Japan. As such, the travel industry - while clearly facing a long road ahead in terms of recovery - is re-dedicating its efforts to see a return to normal levels in 2012.

As daunting a task as this is, the decline in international tourism to Japan has experienced an upward trend in recent months: outbound travel registered a 5% increase in July and 9% growth in August compared to the same months in 2010.

“Japan is Back”

Additionally, with the support of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), and the United Nations World Travel Office (UNWTO), an international message is being sent around the world: “Japan is back and stands ready to receive visitors”. The UNWTO General Assembly (8-14 October, Gyeongju, Korea) is taking this message one step farther, stressing that international tourists will face no difficulties in accommodation, transportation or any other part of their travel.

Efforts at revitalizing Japan’s tourism sector continue to parallel to ongoing efforts at repairing Japan’s infrastructure. In fact, the success of one is dependent on the success of the other. To that end, the WTTC and UNWTO are working together as never before: sharing and disseminating important information on Japan’s recovery with the overall message a sense of normalcy has returned to in most of the areas which suffered the impact of the March earthquake.

A World Stage

In an effort to encourage international travel and demonstrate that Japan’s Tourism industry is far from being done in, the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) held its annual 2011 JATA tourism Forum & Travel Showcase (the largest travel-industry event in Asia) in Tokyo from September 29 to October 2.

JATA not only promotes tourism as a whole, but also shines a light on the importance of local community involvement to the tourism infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, JATA annually attracts a large number of tourist-related stakeholders in addition to the general public and the fact that the event was held in Tokyo is yet another demonstration that Japan is ready to re-establish its role as one of the world’s more desirable tourist locations.

Revitalizing Japan’s Tourism Sector Begins Now

If there is something positive to be gained from the events of March 2011, it’s that the recovery and revitalization of Japan’s tourism industry (and the country as a whole) benefited not only Japan but other countries as well. The worst case scenario that the earthquake and tsunami created forced the world to respond. Similarly from a tourism perspective, the devastation created a situation that the industry had to confront and find solutions to.

In a sense, the efforts at revitalizing Japan’s tourism sector have never ended and in fact have been on-going. Long before the March 2011 eqrthquake and tsunami occured.