Japan: Rebuilding its image
The devastating earthquake and tsunami and the evolving nuclear radiation and food contamination threats are causing many travellers to cancel trips to Japan. The country's tourism industry has taken a heavy blow. By May, the number of overseas visitors to Japan had plunged by 50%.
Aiming to recover tourism, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) is undertaking emergency actions on a global scale. JNTO plans to host large-scale familiarisation tours for more than 1,000 travel industry professionals and media representatives worldwide to see first-hand the progress the country has made in a few short months.
But is its action plan enough to show the world Japan is safe for a holiday, or does it require something more than familiarisation tours?
PR experts say the government can do more.
Akihiko Kubo, president and CEO, Weber Shandwick Japan
Poor communications from the national government and TEPCO made a terrible situation worse. Those responsible for relaying information to the public failed to do so, and as a result, rumours instead of facts have led the conversation. They lost control of the situation in the media and lost the trust of the public. The consequences were sizeable. Brand Japan's reputation has been damaged considerably; the number of Asian visitors has sharply declined; and they are hesitant to purchase Japanese products. We should be aware it will take time to restore confidence in the country when the initial communications around the major crises were ill-managed.
Ross Rowbury, president and representative director,Edelman Japan
The failure of tourism to rebound can be attributed to three key reasons - concern over the level of radiation or possible future radiation; concern over potential contamination of the food supply chain; and regulatory bans placed by governments on visiting Japan. The lifting of the travel warning on Japan and the recent liberalisation of visa regulations by the Chinese government is a vote of confidence for other nations to follow. The issue of radiation and contamination is more complex in that it is accompanied by a lack of credibility in information flowing from the Japanese government. This is a by-product of the government's own actions and of the overly sensational reporting of the situation in Japan by some sections of the media.
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