The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In 2018, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Board of Governors identified five advocacy focus areas that support economic growth in Japan. These also improve our ability to influence business development for our member companies and work collaboratively with the Japanese government and business organizations. One of these is tourism.

The goal of the Tourism, Sports & Hospitality Pillar is to ensure adequate infra­structure, skilled labor, and informed public policy. The advocacy segments include:

  • Integrated resorts
  • Hospitality trends and opportunities
  • Labor issues
  • Sports business
  • Transportation and logistics

The inbound tourism industry in Japan is growing rapidly and is the country’s fastest-growing business segment. Those who have been in Japan for a while know what a beautiful country it is and how wonderful it is to travel around it. Now, the rest the world has discovered this, too, and explosive interest has resulted in surging inbound visitor numbers.

In 2011, Japan had 6.2 million foreign visitors. In 2018, the number was 31.2 million. Through June 2019, some 16.2 million have arrived in Japan, putting Japan on track to set another annual record—especially with a boost coming from September through November for the Rugby World Cup 2019, being played in 12 cities around the country.

Global sports events boost tourism: England score as they beat USA 45–7 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup at Kobe on September 26.

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games starting on July 24, the Japanese government expects 40 million visitors next year. The tourism industry now represents six percent of the Japanese domestic economy according to the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

Japan faces a labor challenge in many industries due to demo­graphic shifts. This is particularly acute in the service industries, and more specifically the hospitality industry. There is a huge gap between jobs available and applicants in the hospitality sector.

Even more challenging is finding properly prepared Japanese graduates to join our many member companies in the hotel and hospitality industry. We learned this in a series of meetings with local general managers (GMs) from prominent hotels in the Kansai region, organized by the ACCJ-Kansai External Affairs Committee. These GMs told us that one of their biggest challenges is finding Japanese management talent.

Kansai Gaidai University

To help address this, and as part of our tourism advocacy strategy, the ACCJ and the ACCJ Kansai chapter is endorsing and supporting two events in collaboration with the US Foreign Commercial Service.

These Hospitality Management Summits, to be held in Osaka on October 28 and in Tokyo on October 30, will focus on the topic of hospitality education in Japan and support the successful continuation of the Kanko Rikkoku (Tourism Nation) and Bunka Rikkoku (Culture Nation) national policies, which aim to meet and exceed the goals of 60 million visitors annually and $150 billion in tourism revenue by 2030.

The summits will introduce US universities with hospitality and tourism management programs that are top ranked globally to address the challenges facing Japan’s hospitality industry. The audience will comprise leaders from Japanese universities, industry leaders, and senior-level officials from Japan’s government and travel agencies.

Our goal for these summits is to share best practices of leading US hospitality schools with Japanese universities that may have started new programs, or that are considering exploring hospi­tality as a new educational focus. We also expect schools in the United States and Japan to form exchange partnerships.

Japan has a wonderful opportunity to improve hospitality edu­cation to support the rapidly growing tourism industry. Despite the well-known omotenashi—that deep level of hospitality taught in Japan that makes visiting this country such a great experience—there is not a single Japanese university ranked in the top 300 hospitality schools worldwide. We feel these summits can help jumpstart efforts to improve this situation.

We are very pleased that the summits also will be endorsed by the JTA, and that the agency’s commissioner, Hiroshi Tabata, is scheduled to be a speaker at the Tokyo summit. We expect support from other Japanese government entities as well.

The Hospitality Management Summits are a good first step for the ACCJ, along with our key partner, the US Foreign Commercial Service, to collaborate with the Japanese govern­ment to encourage the education of Japanese students to support the booming tourism industry. This will benefit our member companies in this area and, we believe, Japan as a whole. 

As part of our tourism advocacy strategy, the ACCJ-Kansai chapter is
endorsing two events in
collaboration with US Foreign Commercial Service.

Osaka: October 28—Kansai Gaidai University

Tokyo: October 30—House of Representatives International Conference Room

Dr. Stephen A. Zurcher is ACCJ-Kansai vice president and head of the ACCJ Tourism, Sports & Hospitality Pillar
The tourism industry now represents six percent of the Japanese domestic economy.