Hi Blog. I heard from Tyler Lynch that Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Mr Honpo gave a speech in Nagano recently, on how to more than double tourism to Japan to 20 million visitors per annum by 2020 (see article immediately following). One question during the Q&A was the recent poll indicating that 27% of hotels polled don’t want NJ tourists, for whatever reason (something not mentioned in the article below). What was the GOJ going to do about these coy lodgings, refusing people in violation of Japanese hotel laws? Well, according to Tyler, nothing. First the article, then Tyler’s report:
In tough economic times, tourism boss finds visitor boost a tall order
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008
Japan’s ailing regional economies can be revitalized by tapping the sightseeing potential of growing Asian countries, according to Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Yoshiaki Hompo.
|Tall order: Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Yoshiaki Hompo is interviewed recently in Tokyo. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO|
China will be a vital market, and Hompo’s agency is now in talks with other government bodies to gradually ease rules for issuing visas to Chinese tourists, he said during a recent interview in Tokyo.
Hompo also said the Japanese are not exclusionist and boasted the country has a unique natural and cultural diversity.
The agency was launched last month as part of efforts to draw 20 million foreign tourists by 2020, far beyond the 8.4 million who visited last year.
“Because the nation’s population is declining, Japan as a whole is increasingly aware that it must vitalize its regions by expanding exchanges, and some municipalities are desperate,” the new agency chief said.
Hompo hopes that despite the yen’s recent appreciation, Chinese, South Koreans, Taiwanese and Singaporeans will boost travel to Japan in the future.
Those parts of Asia with high growth potential must be included in Japan’s economic growth strategy, he said. Sightseeing can be a crucial and effective way to serve these goals, he stressed.
Hompo said he is proud of Japan’s unique tourism resources.
“Japan has been taking in both Western and Oriental cultures in its own way, so we now have an extremely diverse culture,” Hompo boasted.
“We have diversity that even Europe and Asia do not possess. It is a distinguishable feature of Japanese tourism resources,” Hompo said.
To draw 20 million tourists, the agency said Japan will need to attract around 6 million from China, which is far more than the 900,000 who visited last year.
“We will not be able to achieve that if we do not ease visa” restrictions for travelers from China, Hompo said, adding, however, the government will ease them gradually.
Experts are recommending streamlining the visa process or offering exemptions in certain cases to attract more visitors.
While boasting attractive tourism resources, and ambitious goals, the surging yen and recent world economic turmoil have cast a dark shadow on the market, Hompo conceded.
In September, the number of foreign tourists to Japan fell almost 7 percent from a year earlier to 611,500. South Korean travelers plunged more than 20 percent to 159,500.
“We have to be ready for this situation possibly continuing,” Hompo said.
But he remains optimistic as he said many foreign tourists have been choosing Japan in recent years.
Hompo said the agency will accelerate coordination with other ministries on easing visa restrictions for Chinese tourists.
“Easing visa (restrictions) has apparently quick effects” in bringing in more foreign tourists, he said.
While some may argue that many Japanese are xenophobic, Hompo said Japan will welcome foreign tourists with hearty hospitality.
“I do not necessarily think (Japanese) are exclusive in general,” Hompo said. “I wonder if anywhere else has people with this abundant hospitable mentality.”
The agency is in charge of implementing measures to turn Japan into a more tourism-oriented nation. It promotes the Visit Japan campaign, which publicizes appeals overseas for people to visit Japan and take in its natural scenery, modern metropolises and traditional enclaves.
COMMENT: Here’s how Tyler reported (from a comment on Debito.org) about a speech Mr Honpo gave:
Yesterday I attended a tourism symposium in Matsumoto (Nagano Pref.) Yoshiaki Hompo, the 長官 of the newly created Japan Tourism Agency, was the guest speaker, and he commented on this issue of 27% of ryokans not wanted foreign guests.
Hompo-san presented some impressive stats on Japan’s tourism and (declining) population trends. One important figure was how much tourist expenditure it would take to cover the economic loss of one resident: 24 Japanese tourists (76 if just day trippers) or just 5 tourists from overseas. The point is Japan’s economy needs “Inbound” tourists to keep the economy stable during its population loss. In 2003, ex-PM Koizumi declared the goal of 10 million foreign tourists per year by 2010. Seemed pretty ambitious with there only being 5,100,000 at the time, but ‘08 is on target for 9,150,000. (That target is now in danger due to the recent climb of the Japenese Yen.) As Koizumi’s goal will likely be achieved earlier than expected, the JTA is now considering a new goal of 20 million by 2010. That would mean 1 in every 6 宿泊者 (lodgers) would be a foreigner (compared with 1 in 14 in 2007).
Hompo-san then said he is often asked: “With that type of stat, are you just going to ignore the 27% of the ryokans that don’t want to accept foreigners?” You know what his reply was? “Yes, we are going to ignore them.” The reasoning was that the 1 in 6 won’t be spread evenly across all inns and hotels. The percentages will obviously be higher in Tokyo than the countryside. The inns in the 27% group tend to be in the countryside and tend to not want foreigner guests because they are not confident they can provide satisfactory service to them (c.f. Iegumo-san’s in-laws). Hompo-san indicated he would prefer to let such inns persist in their ignorance rather than forcing Inbounders on them, which would only create unpleasant experiences for both parties. As Japan’s population (and therefore their customer base) shrinks, then maybe the inns will wake up to the reality of needing to direct their omotenashi towards foreigners. Or maybe they’ll just keep on sleeping… (My editorializing, not his, but Hompo-san did say he would ほっとく the 27% in the hopes of avoiding them providing 忠太半端 service to foreign guests.)
DEBITO COMMENTS: So there you have it. The economic incentives are clear: 5 NJ tourists equals 24 J tourists (or 76 J day trippers) — meaning NJ tourists spend five to fifteen times more money than Japanese tourists. But Mr Honpo doesn’t seem to think that enforcing the Ryokan Gyouhou matters — the invisible hand of economic pressure will take care of everything, including discrimination against foreigners.
Maybe. But it’s still odd for a member of the administrative branch to argue that laws need not be enforced — that exclusionary hotels can just be ignored. As if “JAPANESE ONLY” rules at hotels will not encourage copycats in other business sectors to put up similar signs and rules. Moreover, economic incentives have not resolved other cases of exclusion, even when there are similar buyers’ markets in the apartment rental economy, where refusals of NJ are still commonplace. Harrumph.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo, another major tourist destination.