TOKYO -- Japan has traditionally been known as a costly
destination, but the Japan National Tourist Organization has a new
message for U.S. agents and tour operators: The destination has
never been cheaper.
Toshihiko Sawada, executive vice president of the JNTO, said in
an interview here that in April 1995, $1 equaled about 80 yen. As
of Jan. 31, $1 was worth about 133 yen.
That doesn't make Japan "cheap," but it does make it more
"It's about time for [tour operators] to come up with new
products," he said, emphasizing, for example, the cultural aspects
of his country.
Japan attracted nearly 726,000 U.S. visitors in 2000, according
to JNTO figures. More come for business than pleasure.
But Sawada said he has reason to hope U.S. agents and tour
operators will be more active in promoting leisure travel to his
JNTO ad campaigns in the U.S. in 1999 and 2000 have persuaded
many Americans that there is more to Japan than Honda, Toyota and
Sony, Sawada said, with follow-up surveys showing U.S. interest in
Japan increased more than interest in any other Asian
From January to August 2001, the number of U.S. visitors to
Japan increased by 1.6%, including a 6.9% increase in leisure
Travel fell off dramatically after Sept. 11, but JNTO said it
hopes it is starting to rebound.
And, he added, travel retailers are becoming more involved. Last
year, 1,810 U.S. agents registered in a new JNTO Japan travel
Meanwhile, the U.S. Tour Operators Association will be in Japan
this March for its out-of-country meeting.
The country also is gearing up to welcome 350,000 foreign
visitors for the World Cup soccer tournament, which is being
co-hosted by Japan and South Korea from May 31 to June 30.
The U.S. plays its first games in South Korea and will have to
advance to play in Japan, but Sawada said he hopes the World Cup
will increase awareness of the nation in any case.