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Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

Foreign visitors flow survey to become annual?

Until now, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has made public the results of a survey of the domestic flow of foreign travelers, which is conducted once every five years. Preparations are now being made to increase the frequency to once a year. Foreign visitors have begun to be regarded as a key factor in expansion of domestic demand, and are being treated as a strategic pillar. By obtaining a more precise grasp of the actual conditions of their flow, the government can anticipate better results in terms of measures adopted for tourism, and travel agencies will be able to formulate better product development strategies.

The flow survey of foreign visitors was first implemented in 2005, but the rapid growth in the number of foreign visitors over the past several years, together with the growing number of repeat visitors, has made it difficult to glean the actual conditions from a survey conducted only once in five years.

On January 10, the ministry website posted data compiled for 2014 that was obtained from the results of a “Survey in Trends in Consumption by Foreign Visitors” that had been conducted by Japan Tourism Agency (JTA).

The survey data was posted in a manner that would enable research organizations or travel-related businesses to modify or analyze it for their own purposes. This time the ministry posted the data accompanied by examples of analyses, including the routes taken by foreign visitors moving from the Tokyo metropolitan area to the Chubu region, which prefectures are visited by travelers to Kyushu, and where travelers stay overnight. The person in charge of the survey expressed pride, saying he believed it would “be useful for proposing strategies for tourism.”

While upping the frequency from every five years to one can be viewed as major progress, it would clearly make more sense to issue the data on a quarterly basis since the survey is based on quarterly data compiled by JTA; but currently a lack of manpower represents a stumbling block.

Cabinet Office

Kasumigaseki Report

On January 23, the government issued its monthly economic report for the month, which contained a comment to the effect that “in some sectors, improvements have been delayed, but moderate recovery continues.” This was unchanged from the previous month’s report, as the same expression was used there. The explanation? Considering the protectionist stance of US President Donald Trump, “It’s necessary to bear in mind the uncertain situation.” This clearly reflects fears of the so-called “Trump risk” that has permeated the world.

“First, how will the United States move? Exclusionist trends are also appearing in Europe. They portend major influences on the Japanese and world economies, and we will need to watch things carefully,” said Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization Nobuteru Ishihara at a press conference after the release of the January report.

On January 20, the first day he assumed the office of president, Trump made announcements regarding infrastructure investments, tax cuts and intention to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but without specifics or regard to schedule. It was anticipated that these points will be raised in his first State of the Union Address before Congress.

The monthly report is based on virtually all major economic criteria, including individual consumption, investment in plants and equipment, exports, and so on. Individual consumption “is showing signs of rallying,” Ishihara said, raising such examples as improvements in the indices related to consumer psychology and recovery in new car sales.

If, however, Trump moves to revalue the US dollar to raise the competitiveness of American products, this is likely to result in lower share prices and higher value of the yen, raising the possibility that the optimistic corporate and consumer mindset will chill. If plant investments and individual consumption stagnate, the current “moderate recovery” may stall.

Some are seeing the fate of the Japanese economy as being “in Trump’s hands,” and this calls for extreme caution on the part of the government.

Keizaikai magazine