Japan makes push for luxury travelers

CANNES, France — The Japanese government looks to boost international tourism sixfold over the next seven years by promoting the country as a cultural, historical and recreational destination and pushing Japan as a prime location for luxury travelers.

Japan, which attracts about 5 million visitors a year, is aiming for 30 million visitors per year by 2018, according to a presentation at the International Luxury Travel Market by Gota Otaka, director of commerce for Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The government is spending about 10 billion yen ($129 million) a year on initiatives such as “Cool Japan,” which promotes Okinawa for its beaches, Hokkaido for its skiing, Kyoto for its culture and artifacts, Naoshima for its contemporary art scene and Tokyo for food and beverage.

Japan is also upgrading Tokyo’s Narita International Airport for luxury travelers, including a new private-jet facility and the provision of helicopter transportation from the airport to central Tokyo.

Otaka said Japan wants to boost tourism so that it rivals the country's automotive, manufacturing and design industries.

“We want everyone in the world to recognize Japan as a premium travel spot,” Otaka said through a translator. “It’s necessary to have everyone recognize Japan’s appeal and hospitality.”

Japanese tourism appeared to be making strides prior to the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in March. Last year, the number of international visitors to Japan jumped 27% from a year earlier, while international tourism spending surged 28% to $13.2 billion, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization said in a report earlier this year.

“Japan is making real steps towards recovery,” said Otaka. “The number of foreign visitors is returning to numbers before the disaster.”

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly

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