Tourism agency opens, targets 20 million by ’20

by Takahiro Fukada

Charged by the government with helping to draw 10 million foreign tourists by 2010, the Japan Tourism Agency was formally launched Wednesday.

“Our job, our mission is to achieve that goal,” Yoshiaki Honpo, the agency’s commissioner, told a news conference.

To turn Japan into a more tourism-oriented nation, the government last year adopted a set of policy goals centered on drawing more foreign tourists.

“As the nation’s population declines, tourism will become a necessary means to promote the country’s regional areas,” Honpo said. “We are undoubtedly in a period when we should look at foreign demand, rather than relying on domestic demand.”

Honpo said his job includes coordinating the tourism-related policies of various ministries.

The agency has set a long-term goal of increasing the number of foreign tourists to 20 million by 2020.

The target poses various challenges, the agency said, such as overcoming what some see as the exclusionary mentality of Japanese people.

Honpo said he will gradually work on improving Japan’s strict visa policies, especially regarding Chinese tourists, by consulting other ministries.