Japan will cohost the 14th World Tourism Organization general assembly with South Korea this fall, at which it will look for ways to revive its own sluggish tourism industry.

The biennial assembly, gathering representatives from about 140 countries, will be held in two parts — in Seoul from Sept. 24 to 27 and in Osaka from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.

Japan’s tourism industry fared poorly last year amid the ongoing economic downturn.

The number of nights a tourist spent at a hotel or inn last year dropped for the third consecutive year, to 2.5 nights per person, while the amount of money tourists spent on overnight or day trips dropped for the second straight year, to 58,000 yen, according to a Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry white paper.

Meanwhile, the number of travelers from Japan heading overseas marked a record high of 17.82 million last year, according to the white paper.

The number of visitors to Japan in the year reached a record 4.44 million, but the figure compares with 73 million visitors to France, 52 million to Spain and 48 million to the United States, according to a WTO survey.

Japan ranks only 36th in the world in terms of attracting visitors, below other destinations in Asia such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea, according to the WTO survey.

In a bid to improve the situation, the Japanese government is mapping out the New Welcome Plan 21, under which it aims to double visitors to Japan by 2007.

The government has also designated 11 locations across the nation as “theme districts for international tourism” under a 1997 tourism promotion law.

However, the high price of accommodation, food and transport in Japan is likely to continue to discourage prospective foreign visitors.

A survey conducted by the Cabinet Office showed a 1.6-fold increase in the price gap between Tokyo and Paris last year compared with the previous year.

The gaps between Tokyo and five other major cities in Europe also widened.

Although the price gap is partially attributable to currency movements, Japanese consumers still spend more for the same merchandise, despite ongoing mild deflation.

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