POSTED: August 7th 2013
NewsUpdate

ALASTAIR HIMMER: Destination Tokyo - record tourist figures boost the 2020 bid

Tokyo cherry blossoms are a high tourism time in the city / Japan Tourism Board
Tokyo cherry blossoms are a high tourism time in the city / Japan Tourism Board

Alastair Himmer is a former sports and lifestyle writer for Reuters who has lived in Tokyo since 1992 and currently working as a freelance journalist, consultant and event promoter /Taka Imai image
Alastair Himmer is a former sports and lifestyle writer for Reuters who has lived in Tokyo since 1992 and currently working as a freelance journalist, consultant and event promoter /Taka Imai image

ALASTAIR HIMMER in TOKYO / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) If you thought Tokyo might be lagging behind Olympic rivals Istanbul and Madrid as a potential tourist hot spot, think again. Figures recently released by the Japanese government officials revealed a record 4.95 million travelers visiting the country in the first six months of 2013 - up a whopping 23 percent from last year and providing a timely boost to Tokyo's 2020 Olympic bid.

The data released by the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) has partly been helped by a weaker yen and increased flights into the country by budget carriers. It also showed that the number of tourists from 10 Asian countries, including South Korea and Taiwan, had hit all-time highs from January to June.

"We are encouraged to see such strong tourism in Japan," said Tokyo 2020 CEO Masato Mizuno. "Japan's established and growing tourism industry highlights the huge numbers of people from around the world who are enthralled by our country. 

"They travel to Japan to enjoy exactly the warm welcome, spirit of celebration and dynamic culture that visitors will experience at Tokyo 2020, a Games that will create memories which last a lifetime."

The previous half-year high for visitors to Japan came in the second half of 2010 and, although numbers fell after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, around 900,000 people flocked to the country in June - the second-highest monthly figure on record.

The latest JNTO figures put Japan firmly back on the tourist map as Tokyo awaits the Sept. 7 vote on which city will host the 2020 Olympics.

The kick-starting of the 'Cool Japan' brand first coined a decade ago and adopted from the 'Cool Britannia' period in 1990s Britain comes with rivals Istanbul recovering from the recent rioting which turned violent and Madrid's struggle to convince taxpayers at home and the outside world the city can host the Games with the nation's economy in a tailspin.

Tokyo's standing as a 'safe pair of hands' among the three bidding cities is reflected in its standing as a clear favorite with bookmakers and this year's sharp rise in tourist numbers is certain to inspire confidence among the private sector and boost support after losing out to Rio in the race for the 2016 Olympics.

It also puts to bed the notion that people are opting to avoid Japan after the tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in 2011. The United Nations World Tourism Organization revealed that the number of global tourists grew by just 4 percent between January and April this year, further underlining Japan's surge in popularity.

Tokyo is bidding to host the Games for the first time since becoming Asia's first Olympic host city in 1964. 
At the bid committee's final briefing to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne last month, Tokyo governor Naoki Inose promised the Games would run like clockwork if awarded to the Japanese capital.

"Every athlete and member of the Games Family will arrive on time - every time," he insisted. "No one will be stuck in a traffic jam when they should be competing, training or working."

Istanbul, seen by many as Tokyo's main rival for the 2020 Olympics, has yet to fully convince it can solve its enormous infrastructure problems and choking traffic in time for the Games, with concerns over preparations in Sochi and Rio heightening fears about the Turkish city's capacity to deliver on its promises.


Keywords · Tokyo 2020 · Alastair Himmer · Masato Mizuno · tourism


For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()


All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.