• Kyodo

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Japan hopes to boost the annual number of foreign visitors to 18 million by 2016 by repairing the country’s damaged reputation as a safe travel destination in its next five-year tourism plan.

The Cabinet is expected to endorse the plan to be implemented from fiscal 2012 possibly in March, according to a draft obtained by Kyodo on Tuesday.

The number of foreign visitors to the country, which hit a record high 8.61 million in 2010, is estimated to have dropped to 6.22 million last year following the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis. The nation had previously set a target of 10 million foreign tourists annually by 2010.

In an effort to regain the trust of potential foreign tourists, the plan calls for the launch of a public-private sector partnership to swiftly disseminate accurate information on natural and other disasters.

The new tourism promotion plan again sets a target of ¥30 trillion in spending by travelers to the country and 20 million Japanese travelers abroad — a goal that was not met in the current five-year plan through the end of March.

Of the ¥30 trillion, the plan calls for ¥18 trillion spent by Japanese domestic travelers on overnight stays, ¥6.5 trillion spent by Japanese making day trips, and ¥3 trillion in spending by foreign tourists.

In the new plan, which runs through fiscal 2016, the government will also aim for an annual average stay of 2.5 nights per domestic traveler, up from 2.12 nights logged in 2010 but down from four nights set as a target in the existing five-year plan from fiscal 2007.

To boost the number of Japanese travelers abroad, the government will conduct campaigns that focus especially on encouraging young Japanese to take trips abroad. Recent surveys show many young Japanese are reluctant to make overseas trips.

The government will also study the launch of a system to channel travel information from local governments and private companies to foreign visitors in fiscal 2012, according to the draft.

It will also target areas other than tourist hot spots in an effort to boost the number of overnight stays in areas outside of Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka and Kyoto to 24 million by 2016 — a number 2.4 times the figure it reached in 2010. In order to reach this goal, the government will focus on boosting the number of repeat travelers from South Korea and other countries.

The plan also stipulates an idea of integrating a number of natural parks located on the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region devastated by the March disaster into one national park to spur tourism and help reconstruction efforts.

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