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Minister set on Tourism Agency debut in 2008

by Setsuko Kamiya

Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba said he plans to establish the Tourism Agency in the next fiscal year to boost the government’s goal of making Japan a friendlier nation to foreign guests.

A tourism law took effect on Jan. 1 aimed at promoting international understanding as well as stimulating regional economies and the tourism industry. Establishing the agency was an additional measure the Diet confirmed when the bill was passed last year to create the law.

“Both the Diet and the administration have agreed that becoming a tourist nation is a significant issue to pursue,” said Fuyushiba, 71, who is in his second stint as minister. He is the only Cabinet member from New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s ruling bloc partner.

During an interview with the media Wednesday, Fuyushiba said the ministry will increase the number of officials involved in tourism promotion from the current 79 to 100 when the new agency is established.

The ministry said the agency would become the control center for tourism policies and its establishment should facilitate coordinating with other ministries.

The government is currently waging the “Visit Japan Campaign” with the aim of boosting annual foreign visitors to 10 million by 2010.

The number has grown steadily to date.

Last year, a record high 7.33 million people visited Japan, compared with 5.21 million in 2003 when the campaign began.

By the end of December, the government hopes to see 8 million visitors from overseas.