(Mainichi: January 22, 2016 – p. 4)
With an eye to further increasing the number of international tourists to Japan, the government is focusing on activities (publicity and advertising) to promote the nation’s tourism resources. In FY2016, it will strengthen its promotion framework by setting up seven new overseas offices. Joint projects between the public and private sectors are getting underway, with a satellite TV station broadcasting programs on tourism in Japan to people overseas.
In FY2016, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), which is under the supervision of the Japan Tourism Agency, will set up overseas offices in seven countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Italy, and Spain. The JNTO currently has offices in 14 countries, such as China, South Korea, and the United States. Adding seven offices represents a 50% increase in the number of overseas offices to 21. This will strengthen sales of Japan’s tourism resources to local travel agencies and media.
The number of people visiting Japan from overseas is increasing rapidly with the depreciation of the yen and the relaxation of visa requirements. In 2015, international visitors numbered a record-setting 19.73 million, a 47% increase over the previous year. Tourists from four East Asian countries and regions, including China and South Korea, made up about 70% of all foreign tourists, with Chinese tourists accounting for one-fourth of the overall figure. Concerned about being dependent on a single country, the government made the decision to enhance tourism promotion in countries from which not many people have traveled to Japan in the past. Key officers at the Japan Tourism Agency say, “Our aim is to spark interest among people who don’t know much about Japan.”
The JNTO already has an office in Thailand, and it opened a website in September 2015 where it posts photographs and PR on famous tourist sites in areas that receive few Thai travelers. It also has Thai visitors write about their travel experiences in Japan. The JNTO office in the United States invited well-known American bloggers [to Japan] in October 2015. The bloggers then posted about the wonders of Japan’s natural beauty, including Oirase Gorge (Aomori Prefecture). The effects of this are gradually starting to be felt.
Private companies are also getting the word out overseas about Japan’s unique charm. Wakuwaku Japan Corporation, a subsidiary of satellite broadcaster SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, broadcasts PR programs on Japan’s tourist sites in addition to Japanese anime and dramas in Indonesia, Singapore, and Myanmar. Apparently, the broadcasts reach about 3.5 million households in the three countries.
Shumpei Fujita, an economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co., Ltd., says, “Visitors from overseas all visit Tokyo and Kyoto. It is important to entice them to visit unknown parts of Japan. This takes promotion work. It is also critical to enhance efforts targeting nations from which not many people have traveled to Japan in the past.”