‘Thank You’ visitor campaign starts

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The Japan Tourism Agency kicked off a campaign Tuesday to woo foreign visitors as a gesture of thanks for the global support that poured in after the March 11 disasters, agency Commissioner Hiroshi Mizohata said.

During the “Japan. Thank You.” campaign, which runs until late April, posters and banners to express appreciation will be displayed at such places as major international airports, seaports and shopping areas.

“We have received great support from other countries and international organizations. . . . They have encouraged us amid our shock from the disasters. They have given us the power to rebuild an energetic Japan,” Mizohata told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

The campaign will include special illuminations at Tokyo Sky Tree, Yokohama Marine Tower, Kobe Port Tower and Beppu Tower in Oita Prefecture as well as at the Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatoro festival on March 11.

A special version of the Zagat guidebook will be published for the campaign, according to the tourism agency.

The government had been trying to boost the number of foreign tourists, only to see the effort stung by the March 11 calamities and subsequent Fukushima nuclear crisis, Mizohata said.

The number of foreign tourists fell about 73 percent between March 12 and 31 compared with the same period the previous year.

However, tourism is showing signs of recovery, partly because of efforts to demonstrate the nation is safe, he said.

The Japan National Tourism Organization estimated that last month saw about 685,000 international visitors, down just 4.1 percent from January 2011.

“Tourism has been playing an important role in the reconstruction (of the disaster zones). It has not only contributed to the economy but also improved communications and spread (the word that) Japan is doing well,” he said.

This month, the tourism agency set new annual foreign visitor targets: 18 million by 2016 compared with 6.22 million in 2011 and 8.61 million in 2010. The original 2016 goal, 20 million, was scratched due to the March catastrophes.