How to Utilize Japan's Resources for Tourism
Jiro USHIO (Chairman and CEO, USHIO INC. and Member of the Council of Economic and Fiscal Policy)
Local Initiatives Needed
There are much more Japanese tourists going abroad than those traveling within Japan. On the other hand, there are too few tourists to Japan from abroad. It is now to be questioned whether Japan's tourist industry is really responding to changing consumer preferences and whether Japan's tourist spots and supporting industries are not losing international competitiveness. To deal with this problem we need to emphasize two concepts: "competition" and "priority", which are quite common in the perspective of the private sector.
First, localities should take the lead in developing areas with tourist spots are attractive and internationally competitive. It is important not only to attract tourists but also to make them stay as long as possible. For this purpose, local opportunities or sightseeing contents for tourists such as fishing, sports, historical tours and traditional events must be promoted by local initiative. There are many places in Japan listed in World Heritage.
If we make full use of those resources, we can make famous tourist spots like Nachi and Kumano.
Training Human Resources
Second, it is also important to consolidate and improve software infrastructure for tourism. Especially, it is important to deal with tourist industries and their human resources. A major problem with Japanese tourism is that it is late in responding properly to the actual change from old-fashioned group tour to individual and tour and thus unable to provide various services such as hotel accommodations, meals and transportation facilities. They want to make their own choices among various alternatives. I expect there will be competition for offering more versatile options of better services to tourists.
In order to make Japan a tourism power, it is becoming increasingly important to develop and enhance higher education institutions and curriculum to produce high-level tourism specialists and practitioners. Especially, there should be more departments of tourism at national universities. As the first step in this direction, Yamaguchi University and University of the Ryukyus will establish new departments of tourism in the coming academic year. Furthermore, we need to train tour guides and tour instructors as professionals, as is the case in countries of more advanced tourism in Europe and the United States.
Attracting Foreign Tourists
Third, there is much room for improvement in the way how to attract foreign visitors to Japan and how to receive them. For example, waiting time for immigration procedures at airports should be shortened. In addition, procedures of visa application and approval should be made easier. If visa application can be made in more places in China, the number of Chinese tourists to Japan may well double in a short time. Visa requirements might be dropped for tourists from Taiwan and South Korea.
Currently the Japanese government and businesses are working together to conduct the "Visit Japan Campaign", nominating a popular Japanese actress as the Goodwill Ambassador for PR to foreign tourists, which is of course not enough. More effective strategies for advertisement and promotion should be established to attract more foreign tourists to Japan. At the same time, the Japanese public should be more tourism-minded, and each one of us should act as ambassador willing to help foreign tourists whenever necessary.
Furthermore, landscape maintenance and urban planning must be reconsidered in Japan. While more scenic roads and historic roads should be constructed and maintained, parking facilities should be arranged in such a way that tourists can easily visit and enjoy those places. In essence, people gather at places "nice to live in, nice to travel to". Paris is one of the most popular cities among tourists, although there are no particular facilities in that city.
Some Successful Examples
Actually, there are a number of notable tourism successes in Japan. For example, Yufuin in Kyushu, which used to have nothing but hot springs, is now extremely popular among tourists because there are many nice restaurants and souvenir shops around the hot springs. Tourists can easily spend at least a couple of days there. Kyoto is another popular city among tourists, and they are attracted to various events such as violin concerts at Kinkakuji Temple and kabuki performance at Hieizan Enryakuji Temple.
Industrial tourism is also very successful in Japan. TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION, for example, is actually attracting a large number of tourists every day. If this is combined with the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan near Toyota City, there may well be a tremendous increase in the number of foreign visitors to Japan.
In any case, local initiatives are crucial in developing local resources as well as establishing specific concepts and contents to attract more domestic and foreign tourists. The government should support those localities that will endeavor to reform their tourist industries.