POSTED: December 17th 2013

Japan hopes for more Southeast Asian tourists before Olympics in 2020

PSY has turbo charged the Korean Hallyu culture / MTV
PSY has turbo charged the Korean Hallyu culture / MTV

CHAD WISE / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) With the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games awarded to Tokyo, Japan is attempting to draw more Southeast Asian tourists with exports of pop culture content and easing the visa requirements necessary to access the country.

Japan is competing with South Korea, which will also host major events in the coming years, like the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. A weakened yen will help Japan, but the Korean city of Seoul has bested the land of the rising sun’s Tokyo in recent years in drawing middle-class visitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

South Korea welcomed more than double the amount of Thais in 2012 – 387,000 – than it had seen in 2008, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation. In comparison, Japan’s 2012 total of 260,000 Thai visitors was just a 35 percent jump from 2008. Thailand represents the largest source of tourists for both countries among the 10 ASEON members.

Popular Korean music and television dramas are driving the higher number of visitors to South Korea, youth in particular, Japan National Tourism Organisation Marketing and Promotion Department Executive Director Mamoru Kobori said.

“The inflow of such pop contents has helped South Korea’s tourism promotions by raising people’s interest in the country,” he told Kyodo News. “In this regard, giving greater access by Asian youths to J-pop songs, animation and other Japanese pop culture contents represents an extremely important strategy to increase future fans of – and visitors to – Japan.”

Seoul’s price competitiveness, increase in low-cost carrier flights, and “all-Korea” initiatives have also helped to increase the country’s tourist industry.

The Japanese government eased visa requirements for citizens of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in July and stepped up its exports of pop culture content with its “Cool Japan” initiative.

Japan has seen a boost of visitors in recent months, helped by increased low-cost carrier flights and Japan National Tourism Organisation-led campaigns to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Japan-ASEAN relations.

Visitors from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam totaled more than 869,000 from Jan. to Oct., compared to the 607,000 tourists in the same period in 2012. Japan hopes this could translate into reaching its target of one million visitors from ASEAN this year.

“As local economies develop, Southeast Asia will have 100 million middle-class people by 2020,” Kobori said. “The market potential is huge as only several percent of them would equate to several million people visiting Japan.”

By 2016, Japan is targeting a two million-visitor goal, a number to be surpassed by 2020, the year the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are hosted in Tokyo.

“Experience and better understanding of Japan by leaders will generate higher interest and popularity back home, and we hope it will bring a positive impact on tourism trends in Southeast Asia."

Keywords · South Korea · Korea · Seoul · PyeongChang · Japan · Tokyo · Thailand · Singapore · Malaysia · Indonesia · Philippines · Vietnam

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