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            12 / 10 / 11

            Rebuilding Tourism – 10,000 Free Flights

            • In a bid to revamp the beleaguered tourism in post-quake Japan, the Japan Tourism Agency will launch a new campaign that includes the distribution of free round-trip tickets to 10,000 foreigners in the next fiscal year.

              Since the March 11 disasters, tourism in Japan has been hampered by the fear of another major earthquake, radiation contamination, and the soaring yen. The Japanese tourism officials have been scurrying about in order to lure back tourists and other types of foreign visitors (i.e. students).

              The latest initiative involves soliciting applicants online and selecting the recipients based on the answers to questions about post-3/11 tourism in Japan and the goals of their travel in the country. The successful applicants will receive round-trip tickets but will have to finance accommodations and other expenses on their own.

              During or after their visits, the recipients will be encouraged to chronicle their stay in Japan on social media outlets. This idea was spurred by an online survey of 2,000 people around the world in August indicating many would trust what their fellow countrymen say about traveling in Japan.

              Prior to the disaster, viability of tourism in Japan seemed guaranteed thanks to the strong nation brand equity: A country with low crime rate, unique culture, picturesque scenery, and pulsating modernity. A vital part of rebuilding this brand involves addressing the issue of radiation and contamination.

              In the wake of the 3/11 disaster, the mishandling of the information regarding the situation at nuclear plants in Fukushima by the media, public officials, and TEPCO led to communication chaos. Rumors and hearsay, instead of facts, shaped the discourse – this was partially aided by the overly sensational reporting by some sections of domestic and overseas media. Consequently, the information from the national government and media lost credibility.

              Japan Tourism Agency’s new initiative hopefully will help rebuild the “Japan” brand through first-hand accounts of the normalcy in most parts of Japan and what the country has to offer to visitors. Yet, quelling the lingering concern over radiation may prove far more complex.