Japan Responds to Crisis

Kenneth Shapiro letters@travelagewest.com letters@travelagewest.com Kenneth Shapiro The cover story in this issue, “Southern Japan Entices” (page 10), offers options for clients who are interested in visiting Japan but, perhaps, are a bit wary due to the March 11 disasters that struck the country.

By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

The cover story in this issue, “Southern Japan Entices” (page 10), offers options for clients who are interested in visiting Japan but, perhaps, are a bit wary due to the March 11 disasters that struck the country. Travelers from the U.S. tend to focus on the well-known tourist spots of Tokyo and Kyoto — which, by the way, are safe for visitors as I recently saw first-hand — but they often overlook the rest of the country. As you’ll read, Japan’s southern region features a mild year-round climate, unique cultures and exotic activities and attractions.

Unfortunately, dealing with natural disasters is a constant aspect of international tourism. Even a country as advanced as Japan has been challenged in dealing with this terrible series of events. According to scientists, we can expect even more natural disasters as the world climate continues to change. Fortunately, with better communication and on-the-spot reporting, travelers — as well as travel agents — are kept more up to date than ever regarding the state of disaster-stricken destinations.

For its part, I have been impressed by the initiative shown by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) which has let travelers and, especially travel agents, know that the country is ready to welcome back visitors. Recently, the JNTO hosted several travel agent fam trips in order to allow agents to see that the majority of the country is ready, willing and able to have tourists return. Right now, you can read two first-hand reports from agents who were on these fams on our website (TravelAgeWest.com/AgentsInJapan).

The JNTO also solicited the advice of agents and others in the travel trade on ways to attract more visitors to the country. This shows an impressive loyalty to agents, and I believe its aggressive reaction to the collapse in tourism is already starting to bear fruit — in the past few weeks alone I have seen several stories about Japan in the mainstream media and on social media websites.

With future natural and man-made disasters an inevitability, the JNTO’s resilient response provides a model for how tourism boards can shake the dust off and get back into the game.

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