The 2012 white book on tourism endorsed by the Cabinet on June 15 shows that foreign tourists are once again visiting Japan. The Japanese government has a plan to attract 18 million tourists from abroad by 2016. To ensure its success, it will be vital to utilize not only historic sites and places of natural beauty but also events and attractions in urban areas.
Training personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to interact effectively with visitors from overseas will also be important, as will improving information and access for tourist attractions, and related tourism infrastructure.
Due to the 3/11 disasters, only some 6.22 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2011, nearly 30 percent fewer than in 2010 when some 8.61 million foreign tourists came to Japan.
In April 2011, the number of tourists was only 37.5 percent of the number for the same month the year before. Monthly percentages for 2011, compared with those for 2010, rose to 49.6 percent in May, 75.1 percent in September and 88.2 percent in December. In March 2012, some 679,000 foreign tourists visited Japan — 95.6 percent of the March 2010 figure and 192.4 percent of the number in March 2011, when only about 350,000 tourists came to Japan.
The white book said the number of Chinese, Taiwanese and American tourists visiting Japan is recovering. It pointed to the introduction of multiple visas for Chinese visiting Okinawa and the relaxation of conditions for Chinese seeking Japan tourist visas.
In contrast, the number of South Korean tourists is not recovering strongly mainly due to the weakening of the South Korean currency won against the Japanese yen as well as fears about the effects of radioactive substances released by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on the safety of food.
It is important to regularly provide accurate information on radiation levels in various parts of Japan to foreigners planning to visit Japan. The Japan National Tourism Organization has continued to provide such information on its website.
The white book pointed out that recovery of the tourist industry in the disaster-hit Tohoku region is proceeding very slowly. It suggested that tourist attractions elsewhere in Japan such as the Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome and the Kobe Luminarie, a light festival in December each year to commemorate the 1995 Kobe earthquake — both of which attract many tourists — serve as role models.
The white book said sincere attempts to honor the souls of victims receive empathy from tourists. Both the government and private sectors need to provide accurate information on Tohoku’s reconstruction and to work out a strategy to beckon foreign tourists to the region.