TOKYO (majirox news) — Japan plans to increase tourism to the country by inviting influential bloggers and Twitter users from around the world to visit areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami and the resulting nuclear crisis, which struck last March. The number of visitors to the country dropped by 50 percent in the first three months following the triple disaster. The strength of the Japanese yen has also dissuaded tourists from visiting the country.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to use social media to jump-start the country’s lagging tourist industry, and demonstrate that it is safe to visit Japan.
The ministry has invited ten influential guests to visit Japan. The program will continue up to March, with these guests arriving at different times, and visiting areas that have been affected by last year’s earthquake. December saw the first blogger,Roger Ortuno Flamerich from Spain, followed shortly afterwards by a food blogger Louisa Liu Chu from the United States, and next by a Muslim Brotherhood blogger Khaled Hamza from Egypt at the end of January.
The Foreign Ministry included online social media because it exerts strong influence, reaching millions of people.
“Traditionally we have invited foreign journalist, writers of magazines and newspapers and TV crews,” said Hikariko Ono, director of the public diplomacy division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “However, this year as part of the efforts of the Japanese government to restore confidence in the country, we decided to invite bloggers and tweeters.
“We sincerely hope in spite of the fear of the social media network that some sort of good feedback of those bloggers and tweeters, who visited the site, will get good feedback from their fans and worldwide confidence in Japan and its products will be restored.”
Ono said they were choosy when picking the bloggers and tweeters because they had limited resources.
“We took various things into consideration such as the numbers of followers, the good and positive reactions from the readers, and we also thought of the regional balance,” she said.
The Japanese government hopes that these bloggers and tweeters will write about their experiences and about the progress that has been made in rebuilding the communities in the Tohoku region affected by the disaster. The ministry wants to show that the country is recovering.
While tourist numbers are rising, visitors are still not traveling to the devastated areas.
According to Wang Jia Liang at Executive Travel in Tokyo, “Since May of last year, the visitors’ numbers have been increasing, so we see this as a sign that this will continue. But to a particular destination like Tohoku where the earthquake happened, it may take one year or even longer to recover as far as tourism is concerned.”
A 25-year-old Australian tourist when asked about radiation in Japan said she wasn’t scared about it.
“No, I’m really not scared,” Jill said in Tokyo. “Friends who have been here said it was amazing. But my mom was a little nervous about the radiation following the earthquake.”
The Foreign Ministry’s scheme to use social media, which is costing $280,000, came about soon after an earlier plan failed to materialize. The original plan was to give away 10,000 free round-trip tickets to Japan, but it failed to gain support from other government bodies. The present plan was approved, since it takes a more targeted approach to dealing with social media.
The next scheduled visitors under the scheme are a Chilean university professor and a Chinese children’s storywriter, who will come to the country next month.
The Japanese government hopes that they will let the world know of Japan’s recovery from the disaster, and the country’s continued attraction as a tourist destination.