Target high-end tourists: hotels head

by Kazuaki Nagata

Wooing the high-end tourist market, especially travelers from China, South Korea and Taiwan, is key to achieving the government’s goal of attracting 20 million foreign visitors annually by 2016, the head of Japan’s hotel association said Friday.

Yutaka Nakamura, chairman of the Japan Hotel Association, said Japan should host more international meetings, conventions and exhibitions. Another area to improve is customer satisfaction, such as by installing satellite broadcasting at hotels.

Nakamura said the association will do its utmost to help the government achieve the goal, which is more than double the 2008 figure.

“With Japan making steps to become a tourism-oriented country, the interest in tourism has risen,” Nakamura told a news conference in Tokyo. “It’s important to make it successful, no matter what.”

Seiji Maehara, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, recently brought forward the target year for increasing the number of foreign visitors to an annual 20 million to 2016 from 2020.

While momentum for the tourism campaign may be growing, the goal of attracting 20 million foreign visitors annually remains far off.

In 2003, when the Visit Japan campaign was launched, about 5.2 million foreign tourists came, according to the agency. Although the figure rose to about 8.35 million last year, it is expected to drop to below 7 million this year.

“It is already hard to reach 10 million visitors, so tremendous efforts will be needed to attract 20 million. This is not something that can be done just by the efforts of the public sector or the private sector. It’s essential that both sides work together and implement various policies,” said Nakamura.