John Marriott, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE:MAR), has been asked by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Japan Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to co-chair a special task force to help stimulate travel between the United States and Japan.
George Kirkland, president of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, has also been asked to serve as a co-chair, along with Isao Matsuhashi, chairman of both the Japan Tourism Bureau (JTB) and the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), and Hideaki Mukaiyama, president of the Japan National Tourist Organization.
The group is part of the Tourism Export Expansion initiative, a historic bilateral agreement signed in Tokyo in April by Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, and Chikage Oogi, Japan`s Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Mr. Marriott and Mr. Kirkland witnessed the signing of the agreement.
“Travel between the U.S. and Japan is vital to the economic success of both nations,” said John Marriott. “Since last year, we have seen travel between our two countries decrease considerably. Immediately following September 11, Japanese travel to the U.S. declined as much as 90 percent, and by year-end 2001, travel was still down 60 percent compared to the previous year.
“Going forward, we plan to leverage the resources of the travel industry and the private sector to create incentives that will significantly boost travel and renew consumer confidence that travel between the U.S. and Japan is safe,” said Marriott. Efforts will include marketing and advertising campaigns, public relations, and targeted promotions with special offers.
“Now is the time for government and industry to combine forces to accelerate the recovery of travel between our two countries,” said George Kirkland. “The urgency of this initiative underscores the importance of tourism to our economies and cultures.”
Over the next five years, the Tourism Export Expansion initiative will focus on recapturing the loss in travel-related business that both countries have suffered over the past year and a half. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2000 alone, Japanese travelers spent nearly $14 billion in the U.S. - the most of any international travelers. Last year, spending fell by more than 20 percent. Equally important is U.S. travel to Japan. Typically, Japan ranks among the top 10 international destinations for American travelers. In 2000, U.S. residents spent approximately $9 billion in Japan. In 2001, total spending fell to $3.4 billion.
This is the first time the U.S. and Japan have ever signed an official agreement to promote travel between the two countries. The initiative is supported at the highest levels in both the U.S. and Japan governments, including the offices of President George Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and stems from the efforts of many leaders within the travel industry.