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Japan’s TV stations tapping tourism boom, reaching out overseas

JIJI

With Japan attracting a record-breaking influx of foreign tourists, broadcasters Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. and NHK are stepping up broadcasting overseas aimed at promoting tourism in Japan.

Sky Perfect operates local-language channels in four Southeast Asian countries through its subsidiary Wakuwaku Japan Corp., which is partly owned by Cool Japan Fund Inc., a public-private investment fund.

In February 2014, Sky Perfect aired its first overseas programs via WWJ in Indonesia. A show that covered tourist destinations in Japan saw a surge in bookings at local subsidiaries of major Japanese travel agencies, people familiar with the situation have said.

WWJ produces tourism promotion sequences based on dramas and other programs aired in Japan. Demand for tours to sightseeing spots in multiple locations is growing among repeat visitors, company officials said.

WWJ is seeking to produce programs in cooperation with regional governments in parts of Japan that have direct flights to Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

WWJ plans this fiscal year to expand the service area to at least 10 nations, including the United States.

Meanwhile, NHK is boosting its own coverage of tourist attractions in regional cities.

For fiscal 2016, the budget of the 24-hour English-language NHK World TV has gone up by 10 percent, in a bid to increase programs featuring regional cities.

Past coverage has primarily focused on Tokyo and Kyoto.

In its first run in April, the “J-Trip Plan” program introduced places known for their cherry blossom across Japan. Plans are in place to cover other places, including the Nishiseto Expressway, commonly known as the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway, which links Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, with Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. Another focus is the Ise-Shima area in Mie Prefecture, where the leaders of the Group of Seven major economies gathered for their annual meeting last week.

“We’d like to meet the wishes of viewers to visit places not in tourist guidebooks,” an NHK executive said.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the recent quakes in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures will reduce tourist numbers.

“We will offer a range of information, including on the lives of foreign evacuees, to help overseas viewers properly understand what is happening in Japan,” the NHK executive said.

Tourism promotion programs by Sky Perfect and NHK are expected to be a boon for the government.

In a tourism policy vision adopted in late March, the government doubled its target for foreign visitors to Japan to 40 million in 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics, and to 60 million in 2030.