Japan Reports Tourism Recovery One Year After Devastating Tsunami
By James Ruggia
March 05, 2012 10:06 PM
According to Yuki Yamagishi, the director of New York’s Japan National Tourism Organization office, “Japanese tourism, though still off by 5 to 10 percent, has greatly recovered” from the straits it was in last year in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
In just under a year, Japan has gone from literally postponing the very promotion of tourism to its current situation. “It’s really recovering,” said Yamagishi, speaking at the New York Times Travel Show. “Business travelers were a big help as their word of mouth relaxed the perceptions of all U.S. travelers. Today the country, except for a 20-kilometer radius around the reactor, is completely open to visitors.”
Though the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami and nuclear crisis are confined to Japan’s northeast coast, with such popular destinations as Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Kyoto, Osaka, Mount Fuji, Nagasaki, Okinawa and Tokyo well outside the area where damage was done, visitation in the aftermath of the incident plummeted even as Japan entered its peak season. In April, despite cherry blossom season, international visitation dropped 63 percent from the previous year, by August it was still down 32 percent.
A silver lining to this disaster came in the way the travel industry responded to the crisis. In June, a mission by USTOA/NTA visited Japan, meeting officials, visiting destinations and assessing conditions. The two organizations led a similar mission to Egypt and Jordan during the Arab Spring. Likewise, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) raised thousands of dollars for the PATA Japan Chapter. PATA stayed in contact with its members in Japan and thus could supply accurate status reports of the situation to media and travel industry stakeholders. This April 16 to 19, 1,000 travel leaders will gather in Sendai and Tokyo to discuss major issues facing the industry, during the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 12th Global Summit.
“This is great for Japan, to have these conferences,” said Yamagishi. “It shows people around the world that Japan is open and it also shows Japan that the travel industry cares about the country.” Appropriately, the summit’s theme will be “Leading a Dynamic Industry through Turbulent Times.” Last year, Sendai City was a focal point of the disaster recovery efforts. PATA will use the summit’s platform to formally announce the launch of the PATA Rapid Recovery Tourism Task Force during the WTTC-PATA event in Sendai, Japan, on April 17.
For more information on Japan, visit Japan.