Scowsill visits Japan to assess situation and offer support

Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, the city is considered safe

PRESIDENT & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), David Scowsill, has just returned from Tokyo where he held key 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 and tourism.

The main message that Scowsill is delivering to foreign governments is that their travel advisories need to more accurately reflect the status of the country in terms of safety and security, with Tokyo and the rest of Japan (including Hokkaido, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe) all currently deemed safe to visit.

He said: “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.

“Travel & 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. 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.”

As Japan prepares for Golden Week (April 29 to May 5) – 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.