National

Japan Tourism Agency aims to draw more Western tourists amid boom in Asian visitors

by Cory Baird

Staff Writer

The Japan Tourism Agency launched a new digital advertising campaign Tuesday in a bid to draw more tourists from Western countries, a demographic that has failed to keep pace with Asian tourists who have flocked to Japan in recent years.

Currently, three out of four Japan-bound tourists come from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, according to 2017 statistics from the Japan National Tourism Organization, also known as the JNTO.

The Japan Tourism Agency and JNTO have created online video clips for YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other social networking services after conducting market research in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Canada and Australia.

To mark the beginning of the “Enjoy My Japan” campaign, the two entities sponsored a brief kickoff event at the upscale department store Ginza Six in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward.

“Of course we want many tourists from Asia to visit Japan, but we also want people from other places as well, including Europe,” said Akihiko Tamura, a tourism agency commissioner. “We are sponsoring events in Britain and five other countries to raise awareness of this campaign.”

The consulting firm Mckinsey & Company Inc. has referred to the reliance on Asian tourism in Japan as a “visitor-portfolio imbalance.” According to an October 2016 McKinsey report, the lagging number of Western tourists can be attributed to low awareness of tourist destinations, a biased perception of Japan as expensive and the lack of an online tourism portal.

The event included Dave Spector, a frequent TV commentator, as well as David Atkinson, a special adviser to the JNTO.

“The needs of Asian travelers are relatively similar to people living in Japan,” said Atkinson, who also serves as the chairman and president of Tokyo-based heritage restoration firm Konishi Decorative Arts and Crafts Co.

“If you come from the U.S. or Europe, you are going to demand more than people from the same region, making it a market that is much more difficult to develop.”

“Amazingly, very few heritage sites have any English signage at all, outside of warnings such as ‘don’t smoke,’ ‘don’t eat here.’ But the government is making progress, as more and more of these sites will include English explanations,” said Atkinson, a former Goldman Sachs banker.

“One goal of this campaign is to diversify Japan’s tourist market,” he said.