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10 Mar, 2013

“Tourism is Key to Resolving Japan’s challenges”, JATA Management Forum told


TOKYO, 7 March 2013 (JATA Press Release) — The Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) held the 21st “JATA Management Forum 2013” at Royal Park Hotel in Nihonbashi- Kakigara-cho, Tokyo, on February 26, 2013. The overall theme of the forum was “Growing Stronger with a Global Vision! Creating New Value”.

Society has been changing rapidly and consumers’ values have diversified greatly over the past two years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. With this background, 310 attendees from all over Japan participated in the management forum, which was designed to summarize the key challenges for the travel industry and to contribute to the management of member companies.

Mr. Mutsutake Otsuka, Senior Adviser of East Japan Railway Company, who also serves as the Vice Chairman of Japan Business Federation (KEIDANREN) and the Chairman of KEIDANREN’s Committee on Tourism, delivered the keynote speech on “Is Tourism just Seeing Sights?” Mr. Otsuka first listed industrial, governmental, and academic challenges facing the current tourism industry. Among the industrial challenges, Mr. Otsuka pointed out low profitability, weak management power, high employee turnover and continuation of old-fashioned business models, and claimed that “the tourism industry lacks pride as an industry.”

Mr. Otsuka cited Mr. Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank. In his speech at the KEIDANREN Summer Forum held in July 2011, three months after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Mr. Green pointed out that “the first key to the reconstruction is tourism.” He said that tourism is the key to resolving Japan’s challenges, including “rehabilitation and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, low birth rate and aging population, regional disparities and deindustrialization”, and reaffirmed the significance of tourism.

Mr. Otsuka also referred to the economic significance of tourism, including “economic ripple effect”, “job-creating power” and “turning foreign demand into domestic demand”, and pointed out the industry’s major ‘soft’ contributions of “strengthening the power of software and human resources through interaction”, “soft infrastructure for peace”, “value of actual experience through interaction” and “local power buildup and qualitative improvement of people’s lives”.

Regarding current tasks for travel agents, Mr. Otsuka indicated the following three: (1) raising awareness, (2) creating new value and demand and (3) developing human resources.

With regard to raising awareness, Mr. Otsuka encouraged everyone to be “conscious” and “proud” that tourism is a national strategy and that people in the tourism industry must “make efforts to help other industries understand the importance of tourism.”

Concerning the creation of new value and demand, Mr. Otsuka pointed out that we should “depart from outbound-focused tourism and promote two-way tourism” in view of the fact that the gap between the number of Japanese outbound tourists and the number of foreign inbound tourists has been widening since overtaking the latter in 1971, with the difference now standing at approximately 10 million.

Mr. Otsuka also encouraged the attendees, saying that “creating desired tours in cooperation with local people is the role of travel agents”, in order to explore the value of local resources and develop new types of tours that impress many people as part of nationwide efforts to attract tourists.

The “only and greatest resource is human resources” for travel agents. Travel agents must transform themselves into companies which develop human resources, including local leaders and those who support local hospitality, in addition to their own employees. Mr. Otsuka noted that travel agents “need to work on developing human resources to demonstrate the power of tourism”.

Mr. Otsuka proposed three important themes for the travel industry in the future: (1) Corporate managers should have a “dream” and “vision”, (2) We should recognize that a “tourism-oriented nation” follows after a “trading nation” and “science and technology-oriented nation”, and (3) We should aim to reconstruct from the earthquake disaster and stimulate the Japanese economy through tourism. He urged the attendees to “believe that tourism is an important industry for the future of Japan and other countries, stress the importance on various occasions, and act with ingenuity”, and showed his determination, saying, “I am keen to work with you as a member of the key industry that will support Japan in the future.”