The Japan Times和訳挑戦:[Japan tourism woes an opportunity for needed change – ピンチがチャンスとなるか?観光業界の苦悩]

こんばんは、Local Tourist(ロカツリ)です。



The Japan Times から [Japan tourism woes an opportunity for needed change]現在の観光業界が直面している苦悩についてのニュースをピックアップしてみました。


それでは、Let’s get started!


The real challenge is modernizing the industry while retaining Japan’s very special character


Tourism in Japan is recovering. It hasn’t yet hit pre-pandemic levels but the number of visitors is quickly growing.


The tourism industry is another matter, however. Hotels, travel companies and other tourist-related businesses are having a hard time adjusting to this new environment. It is an opportunity to implement much-needed changes. Yet while the industry modernizes, it’s vital that Japan not lose the special touch that has made this country a unique destination.


Japan has cultivated foreign travelers, touting its extraordinary sites and vistas, as well as a level of service and hospitality — its omotenashi — that distinguishes it from many other places. Japan hosted a record 32 million inbound visitors to Japan in 2019 as tourism boomed. Those tourists spent a record ¥4.81 trillion ($43.6 billion), 6.5% more than in 2018 and a seventh consecutive annual increase.

日本はこれまで観光業に力を入れてきた。非日常な空間や景色、それと同じくらいハイレベルなサービス― おもてなし―これは他国では例にみない日本特有のものと言えるだろう。2019年、観光ブームによって過去最高の3,200万人もの訪日観光客を受け入れた日本。観光客の消費額は、4兆8,100億円(436億ドル)と2018年を6.5%上回り、7年連続で前年の数字を越える記録となった。

Impressive though those numbers were, 2020 was expected to surpass them by a considerable margin when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympic Games; industry experts anticipated 40 million visitors and a near doubling of spending to ¥8 trillion. Significantly, foreign travel was part of a larger tourism boom: The entire industry generated about ¥29 trillion in 2019 — a considerable boost to the economy.


Yet instead of continuing growth, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Japan, like so many other countries, shut its doors to foreign travelers and domestic travel locked down. The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2020 plummeted more than 87%, hitting a 22-year low of 4.12 million people, and tourism revenues fell to $11.4 billion — just a sliver (0.23%) of gross domestic product.


That was not the bottom, however: Just 245,900 people visited in 2021 before the headcount rebounded to 3.83 million in 2022. Industry analysts expect 2023 to be a banner year and the numbers thus far justify those expectations. About 1.5 million people visited Japan in January, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, a little over half the number of January 2019, but 84 times as many as in January of last year. Monthly arrivals are expected to keep rising — the easing of entry requirements for tourists from China on March 1 should provide a huge boost — and Japan could welcome as many as 20 million visitors this year.


Tourist spending is a welcome boost to an economy that continues to struggle. Foreign visitors are expected to spend about ¥3.5 trillion, about ¥2 trillion ($15 billion) more yen than was estimated to have been spent in 2022. This is a little more than half the amount spent in the year before the pandemic, however.


The surge in arrivals has intensified pressure on an industry that was already under strain. Airlines are not scheduling the number of flights that they had before the pandemic, resulting in full planes and expensive airfares. Ground staff have not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, yielding long lines at airports and delays in customer service.


Charter bus services lack both drivers and guides. Taxis are harder to find and lines have lengthened at entry points.


According to an industry survey last summer, the hotel, restaurant and entertainment sectors lost nearly 10% of their workforce over the last three years, with the hotel industry labor force experiencing twice that decline. A January survey of more than 10,000 inns and hotels found that 77.8% did not have enough full-time employees and 81.1% said they did not have enough part-time and other irregular-hour workers. This is a record shortage even compared to the boom days of 2019.


Wages have increased in response, but bottlenecks are likely to become even tighter. That will strain efforts to provide the level of service that those visitors are right to expect from Japan.


The nations should diversify the tourist experience. Visitors crowd Tokyo and Kyoto, and while those are special experiences, more should be done to encourage travels to other equally, if not more, rewarding locales elsewhere in the country. That is a challenge in the best of times but even more so as rural populations age and shrink. It will take effort to make less traveled roads and places more hospitable to foreigners, most of whom will not speak the language nor understand local cultures and mores.


Especially tricky will be navigating COVID-19 protocols. The disease remains a concern and Japan, like other tourist destinations, must adapt accordingly. That means reducing crowds most immediately and moving away from the mass tourism of the past. Japan continues to promote mask use and the temperature monitors, glass dividers and sanitizers found on many restaurant tables are not as common overseas. It will be challenging to balance the need for visitors to be welcome and respected and yet mindful of Japanese health practices.


Attention should be devoted as well to sustainability. The most recent tourism white paper notes that in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a renewed emphasis on sustainable tourism or “tourism that fully takes into account its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts while addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and the communities that host them.”


This obliges hosts to strike a balance. Tourist sites should be accessible but they shouldn’t be overcrowded or congested. Facilities, practices and amenities should be modernized, but local conditions should be preserved and local customs observed. The white paper underscored the need for renovating facilities and removing old, outdated or abandoned buildings. This will take money.


The effective modernization and management of tourism demands a whole of society response. The central government can offer financial support as well as promotional efforts to expose non-Japanese to alternative destinations before they get to Japan. Prefectural governments and communities can help create economies of scale by establishing and promoting programs that encourage spending in defined areas through digital or local currencies. This should be part of the much-needed renovation of regional financial infrastructure.


Universities can promote hospitality programs and degrees and encourage the fertilization of ideas and efforts across studies. A particular area of focus should be digital projects to make areas and their products more accessible (in every sense of the word). Businesses can explore so-called workation options as they adopt more flexible work alternatives. Prefectures and municipalities should energize sister city programs to forge stronger links with their partners in other countries and facilitate tourism.


While the Japanese government is revising its Tourism Nation Promotion Basic Plan for 2023 to 2025, it has been reported that it will keep pre-pandemic goals of attracting 60 million international tourists in 2030, with related consumption valued at ¥15 trillion. That means that the strains Japan is experiencing are likely to intensify, especially when Chinese tourism resumes to pre-COVID-19 levels.


The Golden Week vacation will be revealing. Japan must gear up for those tests but the real challenge is modernizing an industry in need of overhaul — while retaining Japan’s very special character.










By Local Tourist(ロカツリ)

Hello, I am the writer of this blog. Local but at the same time im a tourist too! :D


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