By Doug Gollan
The devastating earthquake and tsunami that captured world attention and crippled Japan’s tourism industry was barely two years ago on April 7, 2011. However, recovery was swift. Speaking at a press conference during the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit in Abu Dhabi, Japan National Tourism Organization President Ryoichi Matsuyama announced in 2012 his country recorded 8.4 million incoming visitors, the second highest total ever while outbound travel reached a record number 18.5 million.
“Japan is back,” he announced proudly. Amazingly, despite the adversity, Japan maintained its ranking as second strongest tourism brand according to Future Brand’s Country Brand Index 2012/13.
Korea, Taiwan and China continue to be Japan’s largest inbound markets, accounting for nearly 5 million visitors while the United States contributed 717,000 visitors followed by Hong Kong (482,000), Thailand (261,000) and Australia (207,000). The U.K. was the top source of European arrivals with 174,000 visitors. Japanese officials said they are intent on getting Singapore, a traditionally key market to bounce back. In 2012, the city- state sent 142,000 of its citizens to Japan.
Quality of ground infrastructure, particularly Japan’s famously efficient railways, was sited as a one of the country’s strengths. Cultural attractions, creations of skilled artisans, unique culture and world heritage sites were also sited as core to the country’s incredible bounce back.
While Matsuyama praised the world tourism industry for its support of Japan in aiding in its quick tourism recovery, research showed that the world also gained a very positive opinion of how the Japanese people handled the tragedy. What’s more, in an ever more hectic world, foreigners got a closer view of “the simple pleasure of common life in Japan.”
Matsuyama added, “The capital city of Tokyo is heavily campaigning for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games” with JNTO “strongly supporting Tokyo’s bid.”