Table Speech

Power of Travel

June 15, 2016

Mr. Hiromi Tagawa
Chairman of the Board, JTB Corp.

 “The power of travel” is fivefold, ranging from human interaction, culture, health, education to economy. As many as 19.74 million foreign travelers visited Japan last year, marking a sharp increase of 10 million people in 2 years. Japan’s travel balance turned to a surplus in 2014, after 44 years, and makes a significant contribution to our economy.

 The Visit Japan Campaign was launched in April, 2003, followed by the enactment of the Tourism National Promotion Basic Law in 2006 and the establishment of the Japan Tourism Agency in 2008. Sightseeing and tourism are now recognized as a new national strategy essential for our economic growth, which had long been propelled by manufacturing in the post-war era.

 The new government tourism strategy announced just recently sets an ambitious target to attract 40 million inbound tourists by 2020 and 60 million by 2030. However it is not an unrealistic target, as inbound tourists are estimated to reach 25 million this year. Also, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) projects 480 million people to travel within Asia by 2030, of which the above target of 60 million accounts for merely 13%.

 “Human interaction” plays an instrumental role in deepening mutual understanding and fostering perpetual peace. Just a few weeks ago, President Obama made history by visiting Hiroshima as the first incumbent President. Unfortunately, young people in Japan today are said to be reluctant to international exchanges, and in fact the number of Japanese students studying at universities in Europe and the U.S.A. has declined sharply. It is urgently needed to promote internationalization among younger Japanese through active youth exchanges to improve the brand image of Japan in the future.

 Human interaction also fosters new culture, as seen during the 260-year-long Edo period when our culture of domestic travel evolved. Culture flourishes only in a peaceful and affluent environment. There existed nearly 300 feudal domains with a unique life culture in the Edo period. Feudal lords were obliged to move periodically between Edo and their estates, typically spending alternate years in each place. Frequent travels made by this “sankin-kotai” policy of the Tokugawa shogunate brought diverse and different cultures of feudal domains into Edo. Japan adopted closed-door policy during this period and went against the global trend, yet on the other hand, various forms of travel flourished within the country.

 After WWII, we hosted the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 that stimulated a miraculous economic recovery from wartime devastation. Liberalization of overseas travel in 1963 marked an important milestone for tourism in Japan. We are again going to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. I must say we face multiple risks today, including terrorism, refugees, infectious diseases and natural disasters, which pose a threat to the global economy. As we are going to host several large-scale sporting events in the coming four years, we hope to demonstrate the essence of building a tourism nation, centered on different themes of peace, culture, hospitality, safety and security. “Power of life culture” is the key phrase that ought to be further elaborated on. Let me call upon each of you to renew your understanding of the “power of travel” and “power of human interaction” and to make steady progress in turning Japan into a tourism superpower by 2030.