NEW YORK – Japanese travel agencies and local governments gathered at the New York Times Travel Show on Friday in hopes of attracting more American tourists to the country ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
However, the rapid spread of a new coronavirus which is believed to originate from the central city of Wuhan in China is a major concern, with some expressing concern that the disease could discourage travelers to Asia.
Kanagawa Prefecture and its prefectural capital Yokohama were one of the exhibitors attending the annual show for the first time.
The port city hopes to attract tourists before and during the Olympics, as some sporting events such as football and baseball will take place there.
“America is probably the next China, it’s a huge market for Japan,” said Toshikazu Yazawa, a representative of the National Tourism Organization of Japan in charge of the city.
Yokohama will offer two locations for non-ticket holders to watch the Olympic competitions live.
Nagano Prefecture was another exhibitor to promote its region to American tourists.
The prefecture, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, is known for its ski resorts and macaques that bathe in their own hot spring bath.
“Last year we had 40,000 American tourists,” said Yu Yamagishi, JNTO director in charge of Nagano Prefecture. “Most of them visited the snow monkeys and went skiing. We are therefore promoting the winter season.
Yamagishi said the prefecture hopes to attract 2 million foreign tourists this year. To hit the target, Nagano is shifting its focus from Asian consumers to North American and European tourists.
At the travel fair, Tobu Railway Co. highlighted the attractiveness of two major tourist sites – Nikko, known for its nature and Shinto shrine, and only two hours from central Tokyo, and Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower. broadcasting from the world.
JNTO says that while the Japanese government is taking action against the spread of the coronavirus, such as analyzing the temperature of passengers at airports, local governments and businesses have yet to take specific action to keep the virus away. .
According to the JNTO, the total number of foreign visitors to Japan was around 31.88 million in 2019, up slightly from 31.19 million the previous year, while the number of American tourists increased by 13 % to hit a record 1.72 million.
The three-day travel fair is one of the largest trade and consumer conventions in North America.
Last year, the number of participating companies and organizations reached a record 747 representing 176 countries.
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