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The very well-written reportage about congestion and related problems at Narita International Airport in the March 27 edition (“Long lines plague Narita“) rang a very loud bell, with this tourism industry veteran and recent return arrival.

The realistic mantra of an industry that generates billions in revenue for countries around the world is simple: First impressions are vital for visitor satisfaction and for repeat business.

If such impressions are negative, then the expenditure on destination marketing and promotion is both pointless and wasted.

Thus, the arrival experience at Narita is currently negative for most arriving passengers — and if our arrival experience at Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya mid-afternoon March 25 is typical there, then appropriate decision-makers really do need to take serious notice soonest.

At Centrair, the arrival area clearly is inadequate to cope with more arriving passengers than from one plane only. Snaking lines, even before the first of two fingerprint checks and arrival document review, eventually lead to the Immigration Counter. A second fingerprint check, lengthy perusal of passport and documents and, without a hint of a smile, permission to enter one’s choice of holiday destination is granted.

That same absence of smile or welcome was repeated at the Customs Desk, where the first question asked by a very stern young lady was “Why have you come to Japan?”

Leaving that behind and proceeding to purchase a train ticket and on to the platform — both of which were enhanced by courtesy, help and smiles — was a very much more pleasant, welcoming experience.

In all international airports and in these days of constant terrorism threat, both Immigration and Customs officers do represent the first line of defense, so to speak.

Squeezing the immigration zone and counters into too small a space, like at Centrair, is very poor infrastructure planning — and a negative arrival experience is the unwanted outcome.

Within the region, all that Japan has to do is to look closely at how well Singapore handles its arriving and departing passengers at Changi Airport and then copy at least some of this success.

There is no shame in this in the global world that is 2018 — and continuing failure to fully recognize that the arrival experience at too many airports in Japan is negative and that its tourism industry suffers as a result, is not to this truly fine tourism destination’s advantage.

GRAHAM C. HORNEL
CITY BEACH, AUSTRALIA DR. HORNEL IS A FORMER EXECUTIVE OF THE PACIFIC ASIA TRAVEL ASSOCIATION AND WAS FOUNDING OF THE INDIAN OCEAN TOURISM ORGANIZATION AND WAS A KEY ORGANIZER OF THE CONFERENCE IN OSAKA AND KYOTO.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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