Economic Development Through Tourism & Events (Summary) – 2014 Annual Conference

The following is a summary of the breakout session “Economic Development through Tourism & Events” at the 2014 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference on October 10, 2014.


  • Mr. Dave Erdman, President and CEO, PacRim Marketing Group, Inc. (moderator)
  • Mr. Randall Tanaka, President and CEO, The First Step
  • Mr. Jay Gray, Vice President of Global Market Development, Brand USA
  • Mr. Tsukasa Harufuku, President and CEO, JTB Hawaii, Inc.
  • Mr. Eric Takahata, Managing Director, Hawaii Tourism Authority
  • Ms. Yumi Yamaguchi, Vice Commissioner, Japan Tourism Agency, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan (introduction)

This session discussed successful tourism markets and how to promote international accessibility, including the impact on community and economic development. Panelists presented the case of tourism between Hawaii and Japan and discussed tourism policy how to attract visitors.

The Government of Japan established its tourism policy when former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was in power. The target was to welcome 10 million foreign tourists to Japan in 2010. Last year, Japan welcomed more than 10 million foreign tourists. However, Japan is still 27th in the world as a tourist destination. The No. 1 country is France (18 million) and the U.S. is No. 2 (17 million). Prime Minister Abe and his administration have drawn a plan to welcome 20 million foreign visitors by 2020.

Japan will host the summer Olympic and Paralympic games in 2020. To boost the number of foreign visitors, the Government of Japan promotes the country’s unique culture to the world. To achieve its goal, Japan needs to change not only its transportation system but also prepare multi-language signs and free Wi-Fi. Japan needs to make its tourism infrastructure universal. Cross-sector cooperation will also be needed.

Brand USA is the organization that promotes U.S. tourism. The Obama administration signed the Travel Promotion Act in 2010 and Brand USA uses both the U.S. government and private companies, as well as the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) and other foreign countries’ tourism agencies, to welcome foreign visitors to the United States.
Tourists to Hawaii from Japan have a huge impact on Hawaii’s economy and jobs. Large-scale events like hosting the concert of a Japanese pop group drew in 15,000 tourists from Asian countries.

The United States and Japan signed the “Japan-U.S. Joint Promotional Agreement” in 2012, dubbing that year the Japan-U.S. Tourism Exchange Year. Japanese tourists are No. 2 in term of the greatest number of foreign visitors who spend money in Hawaii during their travel. Therefore, the relationship between the two countries is indispensable for Hawaii’s development and tax revenue.

Japan envisions becoming a leading tourism nation after the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. Brand USA is also seeking ways to attract more foreign visitors. They cooperate with airline companies for promotional campaigns.
During the Q&A session, the audience was interested in the difference between the Tokyo Olympic games in 1964 and 2020. The answer was that the Olympics in 1964 did not have any strategy for tourism, while there is a strategic plan in place for 2020. Japan also aims to invite more foreign visitors to local cities.

Chinese tourists have a huge impact on both the United States and Japan. The United States is still considering how to welcome increasing Chinese tourists. It is said that Chinese tourists will be the No. 1 visitor in 2018, but the United States is not ready for that. All panelists agree that tourism brings goodwill and peace to each country.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Annual Conference.