Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the inaugural meeting of the United Kingdom ��isit Japan Campaign�ߡ�Promotion Committee. First of all, I like to express my deepest gratitude to all of you for sharing your extremely busy schedule with us and participating in this committee. I very much look forward to listening to your frank and useful views. It is also a pleasure to have Mr Hayao Hora, Vice Minister for International Affairs of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation.
The Visit Japan Campaign is an initiative involving both the government and the private sector designed to increase the number of foreign visitors to Japan and thus to make Japan more familiar to people all over the world. The government has set the official target of doubl ing the number of foreign travellers to Japan by 2010.
If we look at travel patterns both into and out of Japan, we see that last year 16.52 million Japanese made overseas trips, while no more than 5.24 million people visited Japan from abroad.
Meanwhile, whereas around 400 thousands Japanese visited the UK, the number of British visitors to Japan ? and more Britons visited Japan than the citizens of any other European country ? reached only about one- half of that level, or about 200 thousands. The UK is a huge tourist market. Approximately 60 million Britons travelled overseas last year, representing more than one trip per head of population. And simple calculation shows that Japan was the destination for only 3 in every 1,000 British travellers. Surely, therefore, there is huge scope to increase the level of British tourism to Japan.
For some time now, I have been taking every opportunity to promote the Visit Japan Campaign. I have not restricted myself in this regard to approaching the representatives of Japanese organisations in the UK or British MPs and key figures in the economic arena, but have also directed my attention to younger people such as former graduates who have been to Japan under JET programe and teachers of schools.
And also our Embassy is trying to encourage tourism to Japan. In every edition of the Embassy newsletter there appears a special feature in the Yokoso Japan series, and several pages of our website are dedicated to promoting tourism. W e have set up a special tourism corner displaying guidebooks and pamphlets in the foyer of this building. For those of you who have not seen it, please have a look at it on your way out. Moreover, we have recently conducted a survey of the views of former JETs on ways of encouraging tourism to Japan and are circulating a summary of its findings today.
I am convinced that, to really make a serious impact on encouraging tourism to Japan, we need the advice from many people from both countries . I hope very much that at the meetings of the United Kingdom Promotion Committee, formally established today, any kind of good idea is aired and discussed by members . Already participating are key people from organisations such as The Japan Society, the Nippon Club and Chambers of Commerce, eminent people who have deep experiences in UK Tourism as well as senior figures from airlines and travel agencies who are involved in transporting British people to Japan, together with representatives from other relevant organisations, not least Japan National Tourist Organization. I think that i t is also a good idea to seek ties of co-operation aimed at promoting tourism in both directions by linking up with Visit Britain, Visit Scotland and the Wales Tourist Board, which encourage inbound tourism. Furthermore, we are trying to have the campaign reflect the interests of young people through the input of former JETs.
I ask all of you to support the Visit Japan Campaign and, from your various standpoints, to promote Japan in your daily contacts with your British acquaintances so as to increase the number of people visiting Japan.
It is worth bearing in mind that our campaign can benefit from the role of English as the international common language of the world. As British people who have enjoyed trips to Japan tell their friends in different countries about their experiences in English, the news will spread far and wide, thereby helping to raise Japan's profile all over the world.
It is no exaggeration to say that relations between Japan and the United Kingdom have never been better. Japanese electrical goods and cars are normal elements in the lives of British people, while Japanese cuisine feature frequently in everyday life in this country. Moreover, Japanese cinema, theatre, animation and music have also acquired quite a following here. Nonetheless, it remains a fact that the number of British visitors to Japan is extremely small, that Japan has scarcely registered in the consciousness of British people as a tourist destination, and that therefore extremely few British people are really acquainted with Japan or its people.
We should not be satisfied with the smooth progress of our ties in the areas of diplomacy and trade alone. Rather, to build a relationship between our two countries that is truly solid and durable, it is essential that as many British people as possible develop an interest in, a knowledge of, an understanding of and ultimately an affection for Japan. I am convinced that the Visit Japan Campaign will become and extremely important part of the foundation of our future bilateral relations.
I know that this highly worthwhile venture will enjoy your enthusiastic support and co-operation. Thank you.