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JAPAN is shifting into top gear with a game plan that puts tourism high on its agenda, its confidence buoyed by record arrivals, a recovering economy and the recent appointment as host of the 2020 Olympic Games.

japanSpeaking to the media at this year’s Visit Japan Travel Mart (VJTM), Yasuhiro Iijima, senior director of inbound tourism branding and promotion at Japan Travel Agency (JTA), said the four components of JTA’s action programme “to establish Japan as a country oriented towards tourism” include raising awareness of its brand; relaxing visa requirements; improving tourism infrastructure; and targeting the MICE segment.

Most recently, visa exemptions for Thai and Malaysian nationals were implemented in July (TTG Asia e-Daily, June 14, 2013)

The Discover the Spirit of Japan campaign launched in March also saw a major reboot of the official website, which now contains over 160 videos promoting major tourist attractions and the people.

JTA statistics reveal that with 8.7 million arrivals between January and October, Japan has already surpassed the pre-earthquake high of 8.6 million for full-year 2010. Some 10 million visitors are expected this year. Asians continue to make up the bulk of tourists into Japan, with South Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong alone contributing more than half of the total, according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).

Iijima said: “Hosting the Olympics will significantly raise Japan’s international profile and we will leverage that in our promotions of Japan to the rest of the world.

“We want tourists to travel beyond Tokyo as well, so we will be promoting Tokyo +1 or +2 (to encourage tourists to add on destinations outside the capital).”

The next edition of VJTM will be held at Tokyo Big Sight in Ariake, Tokyo, tentatively scheduled for September 24 to 26, 2014. This coincides with the JATA Tourism Expo Japan, with organisers aiming to catapult both shows onto the global stage.

Meanwhile, Mamoru Kobori, executive director, marketing & promotion department of JNTO, said the NTO’s Jakarta office should open by year-end (TTG Asia e-Daily, July 2, 2013).

“While we are also thinking of opening or adding offices in other countries like India and China, due to budget constraints we are first sending reps to oversee these countries and depending on the results from those markets, we may choose to open an office there.