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Takahiko Ohata, Chairman of OTOA

Chairman of OTOA
Takahiko Ohata

January 7th 2019, the first new tax of the past 27 years, the International Tourism Tax was introduced. Revenues from this tax will be used to (1) Create a more comfortable, stress-free tourist environment (2) Improve access to information about a wide variety of attractions in Japan (3) Develop tourist resources taking advantage of the unique cultural and natural assets of Japan’s respective regions.
Additionally, the programs undertaken must adhere to the basic premises of (1) balancing benefit & burden in a way acceptable to those who pay the tax (2) combining high-levels of innovation & cost-effectiveness, and (3) serving to address important policy issues facing Japan such as the need for regional revitalization.
We fully understand why, from a national perspective, the majority of the International Tourism Tax income will be used on Inbound-related programs, but considering that the Tax will be levied on both Inbound & Outbound travellers, those paying the tax may struggle to understand how these stated programs alone will lead to expansion in Japan’s Outbound Travel Market. Of course, that is not to say simply that a large share of the Tax revenue should be used on Outbound-related programs, but rather that we, as an Industry, need to pool our mutual knowledge, hammer out effective programs which are both highly innovative and cost-effective enough to gain approval of tax-payers, and then ensure they are successfully put into action.

Japan Tourism Commissioner Mr. Hiroshi Tabata has frequently spoken of the vital importance of mutual interaction with as many countries as possible to the realization of Japan’s goal of becoming a leading player in Global Tourism. And I believe that all of our guests today from Embassies, Tourism Organisations & the International Hotel industry share this sentiment.

Last year saw many instances of terrorism and natural disasters across the World. And as numbers of Japanese Outbound travellers are trending up, there is all more the need for Tour Operators to redouble our efforts to ensure that our guests travel confidently and safely. And, to achieve this, I believe that we as an Industry must urgently create the best possible platform for sharing Safety Information, a goal for which I believe OTOA’s unique global network and know-how to be indispensable.

In another exciting development in the promotion of Outbound Travel, OTOA Members have joined JATA Members, National Tourism Organisations, Embassies, representatives of the Hotel & Transport Industries and the Media on JATA’s Japan Outbound Tourism Council, launched last February with the aim of proactively co-operating to realise the goal of 20 million Japanese Outbound travellers in 2020. We will make every effort to contribute to this Council working dynamically to develop effective programs which lead to continuing growth in the Outbound Market.

During periods of revolution, it is said to be important to seek ever higher standards, and at times of great achievement, it is said to be important to fundamentally change ourselves and our organizational structures. Then, let’s consider exactly what is important in this context. Our predecessors have taught us the importance of learning from history. And while it’s often said that history repeats itself, an ability to predict the future is particularly helpful in learning from the past. When considering times of historic revolution, of course the Meiji Restoration, when the advent of foreign “Kurofune” led to the fall of the Edo “Bakufu” Government, the end of the age of Samurai Warriors, and the birth of modern Japan, springs to mind.

Many factors made such significant change possible, some of which were:

  • - having a well-honed risk-awareness towards the state of global affairs
  • - possessing a clear vision for the future
  • - displaying the ability to learn from multiple models both at home & abroad (as shown by the willingness to forthrightly embrace what was necessary to achieve change, irrespective of its effect on the existing order)
  • - expanding understanding of the state of global affairs (the ongoing question of whether, irrespective of past and present, we will continue to be the only people able to do the business we do, being a prime example of a positively-honed risk-awareness)

Revolution in our vision of the perceived future of our Industry has begun.

Finally, I continue to take heart in the knowledge that everyone here today fervently hopes for a Revival in Overseas Travel, and the realization of genuine Two-Way Tourism which such a Revival would drive.

Takahiko Ohata, Chairman