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Cablegate: Japan's New Tourism Agency: Actions Falling Short

VZCZCXRO2300
RR RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #3344/01 3450005
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100005Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9296
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6737
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 1328
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6645
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 9319
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 3687
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 5119
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 1897
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 7202
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 003344

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EEB/TRA DAS BYERLY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD PGOV ECON EAIR JA
SUBJECT: JAPAN'S NEW TOURISM AGENCY: ACTIONS FALLING SHORT
OF ITS AMBITIONS

1. (SBU) Summary: Japan's renewed efforts to promote
tourism to boost the economy face significant challenges.
MLIT's new Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) aims to increase
inbound and outbound tourism, but despite revenue gains in
the tourism industry in recent years, projections for the
final quarter of 2008 suggest the industry, along with the
rest of the economy, is slowing. Given the global economic
downturn and Japan's recent entry into recession, Japan may
have difficulty reaching its goals to revitalize tourism.
End summary.

2. (SBU) The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and
Tourism (MLIT) established the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) on
October 1, headed by Commissioner Yoshiaki Honpo. The new
agency centralizes GOJ tourism functions and aims to
coordinate better the various ministries that work on
tourism-related issues. Leadership above the
director-general level is key if the GOJ is to negotiate more
effectively with foreign governments and have a stronger
presence within the Japanese bureaucracy, explained Hiroshi
Fujii, JTA General Affairs Division Planning Office Chief.
The JTA has not yet established any new policies, but the
increase in budget and personnel (from 79 to 103 staff
members) demonstrates the GOJ's emphasis on tourism
promotion, Fujii asserted.

3. (U) Japan currently ranks thirteenth worldwide for
outbound tourism and thirtieth for inbound tourism, according
to MLIT. In 2003, then Prime Minister Koizumi prioritized
tourism and began the "Yokoso! Visit Japan" campaign to
attract more foreign tourists to Japan. The JTA wants to
increase further inbound tourism as well as domestic and
outbound tourism. (Note: The Japanese economy benefits from
outbound tourism due to business generated for travel
agencies, sales of luggage, and other costs incurred by
travelers. End note.) The MLIT estimates tourism generates
23.5 trillion yen ($235 billion) annually and domestic
tourism makes up two-thirds of this figure. In an effort to
mitigate some of the economic impacts of Japan's shrinking
workforce, the GOJ adopted the Tourism Promotion Plan, under
the 2006 Basic Tourism Law, which aims to achieve the
following by 2010: 1) increase foreign tourists to 10
million (from 7.3 million in 2006); 2) increase Japanese
outbound tourists to 20 million (from 17.5 million in 2006);
3) increase to 30 trillion yen ($300 billion) the amount of
money spent by foreign tourists in Japan; 4) increase the
average number of nights per year Japanese travelers spend on
domestic overnight trips from 2.77 nights in 2006 to four.
The plan also envisions a 50 percent or greater increase in
the number of international conventions held in Japan by
2011.

4. (U) The JTA advocates tourism as a means to counter some
of the decline in domestic demand resulting from a declining
and aging population. The JTA also sees promotion of
international tourism as a way to increase Japan's
international prestige and influence. Despite these goals,
JTA conducted its inaugural reception solely in Japanese,
noted a U.S. airline executive who attended the event,
leaving him to question how the agency would engage in
additional outreach to attract foreign companies and
travelers.

Comment
-------

5. (U) Attracting more tourists may give a needed boost to
Japan's travel industry, but the JTA's unveiling could not
come at a worse time in terms of the global economic
slowdown. September and October showed the largest declines
in foreign visitors to Japan since the 2003 SARS outbreak.
One U.S. airline executive based in Japan told us that
between August and October, Japanese outbound travel
decreased 10 percent overall; outbound travel to China
decreased 50 percent (most likely the result of on-going food
safety concerns), while outbound travel to the U.S. decreased
by nearly six percent. High fuel surcharges and low consumer
confidence do not bode well for long-distance trips, but the
Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) speculates the
strong yen may still encourage short-term outbound travel

TOKYO 00003344 002 OF 002


from Japan. However, without a significant change in
Japanese work habits that discourage longer vacations,
getting domestic travelers to hit the highway and airports
more frequently seems difficult.
SCHIEFFER

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