David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), has returned from a visit to Tokyo to assess the tourism situation following the recent tsunami.
During the visit he held meetings with the government, airlines and travel leaders to discuss how WTTC could help to kick-start the recovery in inbound, domestic and outbound travel.
Following this return, Scowsill was keen to deliver the message to foreign governments that their travel advisories need to more accurately reflect the status of the country in terms of safety and security.
For example, Tokyo and the rest of Japan - including Hokkaido, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe - are all currently deemed safe to visit.
Scowsill explained: “The situation is clearly serious, with cancellations forcing hotels to cut costs and operate with skeleton staffing, airlines cancelling flights and running low load factors, and restaurants struggling as Japanese consumers continue to cancel trips and stay at home.
“Although there are still a number of uncertainties regarding the fall-out from the nuclear power plant explosions, life is returning to normal: the Baseball League has restarted, flights have resumed at Sendai Airport, and Tokyo Disneyland has re-opened.
“Governments around the world have been too slow to remove blanket travel bans on the whole country; they must ensure that their travel advice accurately reflects what is actually happening on the ground.”
As Japan prepares for Golden Week – one of the four major outbound travel periods in the Japanese market – operators are forecasting that outbound trip volume will be a lot lower than last year.
But Scowsill said he sees no reason why outbound Japanese consumers should continue to cancel their trips, as the nation is already demonstrating that life is beginning its return to normal.
“Tourism always recovers rapidly from natural disasters, but this incident in Japan is a little different due to the perception of the situation with the nuclear plants at Fukushima,” he explained.
“I urge the Japanese Government and industry leaders to communicate clearly to the outside world that the situation in Fukushima is under control. Without this clear and ongoing assurance, it will be difficult to stimulate inbound tourists to return when they have so many other destinations to visit.
“The lingering concern about radiation must be eradicated from the minds of potential visitors, and this requires a sustained and co-ordinated communications campaign.”