A view from the tourist class carriage of a Panama Canal Railway Co. train… (Tito Herrera, Associated…)
Almost one year since a devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan, a global travel trade group predicted that the island country's tourism industry would make a full recovery in 2012 amid a global rise in travel spending.
An economic analysis issued Wednesday by the World Travel & Tourism Council predicted that international tourism would generate $129 billion in spending in Japan in 2012, compared with $128.5 billion generated in 2010.
The earthquake, which struck March 11, 2011, triggered a tsunami and ensuing fears over damage to a key nuclear power plant in Japan. Tourism spending in the country fell by 3.9% to $123.5 billion for the entire year, according to the tourism council.
"Japan's travel and tourism recovery has been much better than anyone could have anticipated 12 months ago," said David Scowsill, president of the trade group based in London. "With help of a forceful marketing strategy, Japan is open and ready for business."
Among other tactics, Japanese tourism officials tried to boost travel there by giving free airfare to 10,000 travelers to visit the country.
The government-sponsored Japan Tourism Agency asked potential visitors to submit applications and then picked the winners, who were required to write a review of their experiences in Japan to be published on the Internet. Travelers who won the airfare were asked to pay for their own hotels and meals.
In a separate report, the tourism council said the global travel and tourism industry was expected to grow by 2.8% in 2012, generating at least $2 trillion in spending in 2012 and supporting more than 100 million jobs.
The spending on travel and tourism should also spark spending on related businesses, such as restaurants and retail shops, generating an overall $6.5 trillion and supporting 260 million jobs in 2012, the report said.
The report predicted that the biggest growth in travel and tourism spending — 6.7% — was expected to be in Asia, particularly India and China, where surging income levels were expected to boost domestic travel.
The travel and tourism industry in North America was expected to grow by 1.3%, the report said. But an uncertain economy in Europe and civil unrest in North Africa and the Middle East will damp travel spending somewhat, the report predicted.
"It is clear that the travel and tourism industry is going to be a significant driver of global growth and employment for the next decade," Scowsill said. "Our industry is responsible for creating jobs, pulling people out of poverty, and broadening horizons."