Few Tourists to Japan

27Aug07

The Wall Street Journal had a short summary of an article in BusinessWeek discussing the pathetically low numbers of foreign visitors to Japan, apparently 7.3 million visitors in 2006, and of those nearly 30% were there on business. According to the World Tourism Organization, Japan actually ranks 30th in terms of tourist visitors. According to Ian Rowley, the author, this represents a missed opportunity for the Japanese economy.

But is it? In a country of Japan’s size and population density, I’m not sure I’d want really want to see the 50 million or so that visited France tromping around Japan.

As someone who regularly travels to Japan, from a purely selfish point of view, I’m happy to keep Japan a hidden and special gem. I’d hate to see the country’s exotic feel become cheapened by a huge influx of people with little or no knowledge of the country. I’m sure it would be good for the economy, but what Japan would lose in the transaction would be something intangible. I’m aware this is a romantic and perhaps elitist point of view though.

I would like more people to learn about and visit Japan, but in terms of sustainability of Japan’s tourist attractions, many of which are ancient and sensitive spots, I’m not sure it can handle such a load.

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