Government’s tourism efforts ineffective, report says


Staff Writer

The government probably can’t take credit for the increase in the number of foreign tourists. Many of its projects to attract visitors, such as inviting foreign travel agencies to Japan, participating in trade shows overseas and various advertising campaigns, are ineffective, according to a recent report by the internal affairs ministry.

Of the 244 projects the Japan Tourism Agency funded from fiscal 2010 to 2012, 31 of them, on which the agency spent as much as ¥90 million, failed to attract even one tourist.

In one failed case, the government spent about ¥3 million to bring over Chinese journalists to get them to write about traveling in Japan. Not one of the 600 visitors the project was meant to attract materialized.

The effectiveness of 119 projects can’t even be assessed, the report said.

JTA official Hayato Takaishi said the agency has no system to determine whether projects work in the long term.

He said the agency’s local branches outsource the projects to private firms on a one-year contract basis. But once the fiscal year ends, the firms don’t have to report whether any visitors were attracted. The complete failure of the 31 projects were just the results of one fiscal year, Takaishi said.

“It takes more than a year for some projects to actually begin to work . . . even though the report says that these projects were not effective, not all of them failed,” he said.

  • Demosthenes

    Well, with issues like Fukushima, a tense stand off with China, plus the fact that a lot of ‘cool Japan’ is now passé, is it any wonder why many of these initiatives might not have worked so effectively right off the bat? I mean, given time maybe…. but I think a few issues will need to subside first. And Japan will need to come up with something new to warrant people coming to visit. The cool Japan idea is about as popular as Utada Hikaru now.

    • phu

      The way I’ve read it, “Cool Japan” appears to be more about promoting Japanese products to generate business than about tourism. Searching the phrase on the web yields various programs and ideas sharing the name, but a tourism campaign does not seem to be among them.

      Regarding the article, I think the worst thing about this is the lack of accountability. Granted, on a national scale, the funds provided are paltry (which is also not a great sign in terms of dedication to this particular goal); however, if there’s money going into these things with the expectation of results, it seems to me the government owes it to the taxpayers to audit efficacy of these programs.

    • Gordon Graham

      Yet tourism is Up

      • phu

        Correlation is not the same as causation.

        This one fact is what keeps most people from understanding so much of what’s written and said about… basically… everything.

        If you assume that increased tourism must necessarily be the result of this one set of efforts (despite a complete lack of even the attempt to document its effects), you have discounted any other possible events or circumstances that could have contributed in anyway.

        Non-exhaustive examples:
        1. The weaker yen makes Japan cheaper.
        2. More time passed makes the Fukushima incident less of an issue.
        3. The definition of tourism is invalid.
        4. The accounting around this figure is invalid.
        5. The definitions of tourism or its accounting were previously invalid and have been corrected.

        There are myriad reasons for an increase in tourism (or, importantly, the perception of an increase in tourism). I hope this will show you not just that this point of view is flawed in this scenario, but that the correlation versus causation issue is ALWAYS something to consider.

      • Gordon Graham

        That said, tourism is up

      • phu

        Wow. Respect lost.

      • Gordon Graham


      • saldiven

        That doesn’t mean that anything the government did to encourage the tourism had anything to do with the increase in tourism. Potentially, this means millions of wasted Yen by a government that is not awash with funds.

  • GBR48

    All countries spend money advertising their countries abroad. It’s impossible to determine whether these projects have any direct effect on tourist numbers. Tourists rarely provide feedback to government agencies on why they visit.

    It is a concern when a government outsources projects with public funds and little apparent accountability. In general, someone should at least check that they did something worthwhile or else such projects become fraud magnets. Quite how success and failure were determined in the cases cited isn’t given in the article.

    The decision to visit Tokyo is often a personal one. There may be an increase in numbers from a generation who discovered Japanese popular culture via Studio Ghibli films and online (YouTube, crunchyroll) as it became more internationally accessible, and then finally became old enough to travel off their own bat to visit.

    It has also become a lot easier to arrange a flexible stay in Japan without using travel agents, booking the constituent parts of your holiday online. That can make it a lot cheaper.

    Fukushima’s impact would not have lasted long for those visiting the rest of the country, whilst Chernobyl has a fairly extensive tourist industry of its own-something the people of Fukushima might want to consider.

    The US presence pretty much ensures that Japan and China trading insults wont come to much. Just sub-par politicians grandstanding, the way they do.

    Japan may have benefited from other exotic destinations being crossed off the tourist map due to extremist violence or political instability. The land of the rising sales tax is renowned for being safe, friendly and ticking all of the tourist boxes. Despite the sales tax increase, day-to-day costs for holidaying in Japan remain very reasonable. As long as the government can keep the hard right nationalists locked in their cage and don’t do anything stupid, tourism to Japan should increase year-on-year.

    A bit harsh on Utada Hikaru. I’ve just bought both of her singles collections.