Creating a credit-card friendly market, providing round-the-clock public transportation and supporting travelers in multiple languages would go a long way toward increasing overseas visitors to Japan, international students advised the tourism ministry Wednesday.
Speaking at the ministry’s first roundtable meeting of its kind, 12 students from eight countries presented their ideas to administration officials and top bureaucrats on how to improve Japan’s strategy to boost tourism.
“Japan can do more to promote its culture,” Charles Lau, 24, who studies at University of Tokyo, said in his presentation.
The engineering student from Malaysia pointed out that Japan has more to offer than the standard stops in Kyoto or Nara, and that his recent visit to Oze National Park on the Gunma-Fukushima border was just as inspiring.
But Lau said he has experienced some issues since arriving in Tokyo in April 2012, including not always being able to use credit cards while traveling around the country.
Meanwhile, In Seunghwan, 30, from South Korea, proposed that public transportation be available 24 hours a day in Tokyo, which is particularly important because the city has a lot to offer at night.
“I want to visit Roppongi and Ginza at night,” said In, who studies urban environmental sciences in Tokyo Metropolitan University’s graduate school.
Having been in Japan almost three years, he feels that trains and subways shutting down soon after midnight has limited his time out in the city.
Daniel Pedrazzoli, 28, from Ecuador, meanwhile suggested that Tokyo embrace foreign visitors from different corners of the world. The chemistry student at the University of Tokyo suggested multilingual public signs should include Spanish in addition to English, Chinese and Korean.
The event was attended by senior vice tourism minister Yosuke Tsuruho and Shigeto Kubo, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency.
“Please feel free to say negative things about Japan. We will listen to your opinions humbly,” Tsuruho told the students. “We sincerely need your advice, as Japan is in a transitional phase of transforming” its tourism strategy.
Tourist numbers were devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear crisis. But under the Visit Japan campaign, the government is trying to attract 10 million foreign visitors this year, 18 million in 2016 and 25 million in 2020.
This year’s target is likely to be met, recent statistics show, while the 2020 goal is within reach because of the Olympics.