Suchat Sritama

The Nation (Thailand)

Publication Date : 17-05-2011


The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) and Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA) will work together for the first time to help restore two-way tourism after the number of visitors to both countries dropped after the double-punch tragedy in Japan.

Thailand has lost about 300,000 visitors from Japan since the earthquake and tsunami struck Sendai and the northeast of the country on March 11.

Japan also experienced a huge decline of 23 per cent from the Thai market during the first quarter. The slump was as bad as 60 per cent in March and is expected to continue until the end of this year.
Japan was one of the top five markets for Thai tourism last year with 1 million visitors, while 300,000 Thais travelled to Japan and counted as the most foreign visitors to some cities, including Fujikawagu-chiko, a popular destination for viewing Mount Fuji.
The TTAA held a 'Japan Our Best Friend' familiarisation trip to Tokyo and Yamanishi prefecture from May 11-15, taking 160 travel operators from the TTAA as well as members of the Thai-Japan Tourism Business Association to meet with 125 representatives from 25 Japanese government and business organisations.
It was the biggest foreign group from the private sector to visit Japan since the massive earthquake in March.
Tadatoshi Mamiya, president of the JNTO, said the Japanese government continued to promote tourism activities and events to encourage visitors from around the world to come back to the country.
"JNTO will invite operators from overseas to see that the situation and tourist places now are back to normal. This will help restore Japan's tourism," he said.
Mizohata Hiroshi, executive director of the Japan Tourism Agency, said last week's trip by Thai operators would help international tourism bodies and the private sector feel more confident about promoting Japan to their customers again.
Thailand was the first country to help create a positive image of tourism in Japan post-crisis and the people of Thailand will soon return to Japan, he said.
"Most tourism areas in our country are not affected by the radiation problem. Tourists still can come to Japan with no worries about the crisis, which is limited to a small area," he said, referring to the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture.

Hiroshi Masuda, director of the JNTO Bangkok office, said it was planning a series of marketing activities and promotions specifically to boost Thai tourists in the second half of this year.
The JNTO will start with a tourism trade fair, Thailand Travel Mart Plus, at Impact Muang Thong Thani next month. It will invite tourism organisations and operators to promote tourism products in Japan to the Thai market.
The JNTO will continue with a consumer fair at Siam Paragon in July with the theme 'Smile Japan Expo'.
The event is aimed at reclaiming Thai tourists in the high season coming up in the last quarter of this year until next April.
The office will invite local operators involved in the Japan market and also many operators from Japan to participate in the Thai-land International Travel Fair, which the TTAA is set to hold in August.
Hotel occupancy in Japan plunged by half in March compared with same month last year.
The government is preparing invitations for all tourism organisations to visit Japan and experience for themselves that the country has safely emerged from the crisis.
Thai tourists should start returning to Japan in July, but maybe not in the same numbers as last year.
"JNTO will not only work with Thailand, but we will also soon invite operators and the media from (mainland) China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to Japan to learn about our current situation," Masuda said.

The JNTO will focus on communicating overseas a correct image of the country, with the message that its travel and tourism businesses are running as usual. All tourists are guaranteed a problem-free stay, he said.
Yoshiyasu Watanabe, mayor of Yamanishi, which features resort towns and the best vista of Mount Fuji, said Thais were the biggest group among international visitors last year, with more than 20,000 visitors.
However, the number has plummeted since the quake and tsunami in March. Tourists from other countries as well as local visitors have also been decreasing for months.
Officials from the private sector are scheduled to visit and meet with operators in Bangkok in August to promote products in Yamanishi and revive the Thai market, he said.
Koichi Kubota, chairman of Tourism Promotion of Yamanishi, one of Japan's most attractive destinations for international markets, said the tourism industry had accounted for half of total income in the prefecture, but revenue shrank sharply because of the radiation leaks in Fukushima prefecture.
"Tourism areas so far are not affected physically from the crisis, but tourism has experienced a bad impact," he said.
Some airlines have cut their frequencies to Japan because of the reduction in passengers. However, Yamanishi prefecture will discuss with airlines about resuming operations.
It will cooperate with major travel companies such as HIS to create travel packages and promotions to lure visitors back to the area, Kubota said.

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