Japan Tourism 2020: Raising the Game
The author with DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who received an Excellent Partner award from the Japan Tourism Awards during the Tourism Expo Japan for its Boracay environment rehabilitation program last year.

Japan Tourism 2020: Raising the Game

Lucien C. Dy Tioco (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2019 - 12:00am

With the sudden rise of foreign visitors over the past decade, tourism has climbed up as Japan’s third biggest source of economic revenues after automobiles and chemical products. Indeed, the number of visitors to Japan has more than tripled since 2010. Since relaxing its visa policy to the Philippines a few years back, the chance of your relative, friend or friend of a friend visiting Japan has become much more common, whether it’s during the Sakura or to enjoy its distinct powdery winter snow.

In a recent press conference held during the annual Visit Japan Travel Mart held for the first time in Osaka, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) formally announced its plan to target 40 million foreign visitors to Japan in 2020. The total number of visitors for this year is expected to end at 32 million. Year-on-year, Japan’s gets a 26 percent average increase of inbound tourism.

With the Tokyo Olympics happening next year, JNTO president Satoshi Seino revealed that the target is way higher than the expected surge from the Summer Games; that’s the reason why the JNTO is focusing its strategy to create a more enriching experience in Japan by offering newer destinations and packages in its different cities and prefectures for Asian and Western markets. Aside from that, they are introducing new facilities for business events by increasing the number of convention centers and hotels next year.

While the Asian market rates Japan as their favorite destination to keep coming back to, it has yet to encourage more Western visitors whose preferences tip more towards adventures and unique cultures than shopping. These findings have encouraged Japan’s tourism efforts to focus on seven key elements that complete an enriching Japan experience: Tradition, Outdoors, Cuisine, Cities, Nature, Art and Relaxation.

This renewed intensifying of its tourism efforts was evident as the JNTO simultaneously hosted the Visit Japan Travel Mart (VJTM) and the Tourism Expo Japan (TEJ) at the Intex Compound in Osaka City. This huge event supports both inbound and outbound tourism, attracting almost 8,000 participants comprised of local and foreign government officials, tourism bureaus and organizations, travel agency buyers and suppliers, hotel chains, and media from all over the world.

Both events not only create an excellent impression, but also showcase how serious the Japanese are in meeting their goals for their tourism targets. We were welcomed at the European Renaissance style building called the Osaka City Central Public Hall.

The 2019 Japan Best Incentive Travel Awards ceremony was also held at the welcome reception where one of our very own travel agencies, Uni-Orient Express led by Nancy Chan, was given a special award for its travel program. The VJTM was held over four days, serving as a venue for exhibitors, buyers and suppliers to conduct business meetings and close deals. The media were also given time to acquaint with the Japanese tourism providers via 30-minute business meetings over an allotted number of hours spread across two days.

Coinciding with the VJTM activities is the Tourism Expo Japan where the exhibition hall was also held at the Intex Complex while the conference programs were held at the adjacent Hyatt Regency Osaka. The TEJ Exhibition Hall boasted 1,600 exhibitors comprised of Japanese and other Asian destinations including our own mounted by the Department of Tourism, airlines operating in Japan, local government bureaus and services.

One of the highlights of TEJ 2019 was the Japan Tourism Awards, which recognize tourism programs in Japan and overseas that promote innovation, sustainability and social relevance. The Philippines’ Department of Tourism received an Award for Excellent Partner by the JTA Jury, recognizing our brave effort to impose a six-month environmental rehabilitation program for Boracay Island. Our DOT delegation, led by DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, was present to receive the prestigious award.

Puyat also participated in the roundtable discussion about Sustainable Development Goals by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), where she shared with the panel the Philippine government’s courageous decision to impose a half-year suspension of Boracay Island’s tourism operations to give way to a total environmental rehabilitation program to ensure its long-term sustainability as a major tourism contributor to the country through community involvement.

While The Philippines was able to create a good impression during both events, the VJTM and TEJ experience gave us an impressive glimpse of new ways to initiate accelerated growth in achieving tourism goals — by looking through a lens whereby tourism is positioned as a major source of income for a country, just as Japan has admirably done.


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