United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, has called for continued international support of the tourism sector in Japan.
“It is vital that we continue to work together to share accurate information on Japan’s recovery, provide support to those areas most affected and pass on the message that the situation has returned to normalcy in most of the areas which suffered the impact of the March earthquake,” explained Rifai.
Pictured: UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai, left, meets Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda
Joined by David Scowsill, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Rifai assured prime minister Yoshihiko Noda the two organisations would continue to transmit the message Japan is back and stands ready to receive visitors.
Noda said: “In the process of revitalising Japan, tourism plays an important and indispensable role.”
Emphasising the importance of the sector to the prime minister, Scowsill said the tourism industry was doing everything it could to assist the recover.
“The industry is working hard to drive the recovery process and we anticipate that business will return to normal levels in 2012”.
Tourism accounts for nine per cent of GDP globally and seven per cent of GDP in Japan.
Following the earthquake and tsunami which struck the country in March 2011, both inbound and outbound travel suffered significantly.
Nevertheless, the decline in international tourism to Japan has been clearly reversing in recent months, while outbound travel returned to growth in July (departures from Japan registered a five per cent increase in July and nine per cent growth in August compared to the same months in 2010).
During his visit, Rifai visited tsunami affected areas to observe the current state of recovery, including Sendai, the nearest major city to the earthquake, where he met with government officials, to share information and exchange views on revitalising tourism in the Tohoku region.