TOKYO -- The Travel Industry Association of America's international
office here seemed bound for success when it sponsored its first
SeeAmerica seminar in Japan late last summer.
About 150 agents, tour operators and journalists turned out to
hear suppliers such as Marriott and Universal Studios explain why
and how they should pitch the U.S. market.
But as the post-seminar dinner came to an end, a Hertz
representative received a call on his cell phone. An aircraft, he
was told, had crashed into the World Trade Center. Ever since,
workers at the TIA office here have been struggling to persuade
skittish Japanese travelers to resume trips to America.
"I'm sure they will come back," Kayoko Inoue, who leads the
office, said in an interview with Travel Weekly here. "The problem
Japan is the largest overseas market for U.S. tourism, which is
why TIA chose it for one of its three international offices.
Commerce Department figures show more than 5 million Japanese
visited the U.S. in 2000.
When TIA opened its Tokyo office in August 2000, Inoue told TIA
executives she could help increase the total annual arrivals number
to 6 million in five years. Inoue, hired as TIA's managing
director, international marketing in Japan, had more than 30 years
of experience in the Japanese travel market.
Inoue isn't making those predictions now. Instead, she and her
staff must use their experience and connections to overcome safety
concerns, a troubled Japanese economy and what both she and an All
Nippon Airways executive described as a Japanese tendency to follow
"If somebody says I'm not going, everybody would follow that
view," said Katsuhiko Kitabayashi, ANA's senior vice president of
To Inoue that means TIA needs only to turn the tide.
"Once some people start to go, we can get the bigger numbers,"
Inoue said. "We need to give one more push to the Japanese
consumer: Go to America."
Part of that push comes from encouragement Inoue and her staff
are offering to Japanese tour operators.
In another ongoing dialogue, TIA, the U.S. Commercial Service
and travel suppliers discussed the possibility of airing on
Japanese TV stations a TIA tourism promotion commercial featuring
Early next month, TIA will launch a two-week-long takeover of
one of the jam-packed Japanese subway trains, in that every ad on
the train will promote travel to the U.S. Concurrently, TIA will be
encouraging tour operators to display "Greetings from America"
Inoue expressed hope the campaign could prime the pump for
"Golden Week," a coinciding of national holidays that amounts to a
10-day break this year for the Japanese in late April and early