Japan’s “travel deficit”

If you follow Japan, you probably know about the “Yokoso! Japan” tourism promotion campaign. There are awesome TV spots featuring Koizumi and posters of creepy-looking foreign people. Japan is desperate to get tourist dollars.

Why? Japan might have a big trade surplus, but in terms of tourism, it exports much, much more than it imports. In 2004, for instance, travel from Japan accounted for $38.3bn in expenditures, while travel to Japan accounted for just $11.3bn, a 3.4:1 ratio. A recent JETRO report characterized this as a “travel deficit.”

Travel to Japan has been increasing over the last few years, while travel from Japan has been stable or slightly decreasing. Deflation in Japan probably has much to do with this; also, Japan has been more permissive about visas in recent years, while other countries have gotten stingier. I wonder if we’ll actually see results from this promotion campaign. My guess is: probably not really.

3 thoughts on “Japan’s “travel deficit””

  1. Funny you should post on this. I just returned from dinner with a friend and the subject of tourism in Japan came up in our discussion. I was reminded of a visit to a city government office in Kyoto where the question was asked, “how can Japan become a more friendly place for foreign visitors?” One of the solutions proposed, that to my knowledge has yet to be implemented, was to have local college students who are studying English (or Chinese or Korean, etc…) act as volunteer guides at local temples and other tourist hot spots. It wouldn’t cost the temples a thing and would give students a chance to practice their English, as well as allow mutual interaction with foreign guests, while promoting education in traditional Japanese culture. I also think this would help create a favorable image of Japan abroad by enhancing their already well-known reputation for politeness.

  2. They already have some programs like that, although they may not be very well staffed and/or publicized. I knew a girl at Rits with pretty good English and I believe conversational level French that did some volunteer guiding for foreigners as a chance to practice.

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