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Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008
Tanigaki touts foreign tourism to boost economy
Attracting more foreign tourists can help offset the loss of economic vitality foreseen as the nation ages and the population declines, tourism minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said Monday.
"Even if we work hard to expand internal demand while the population declines, it won't be enough," Tanigaki said in an interview with The Japan Times. "It will be necessary to bring in people, commodities and money from developing areas."
To this end, the Japan Tourism Agency will be established under the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in October.
Welcoming more Asian tourists is a way to revitalize the economy, the former finance minister said.
Tanigaki said Japan has huge growth potential in tourism. "Our country has such a (long) history and abundant nature with four seasons," Tanigaki said. "There is still room for further growth" in the number of foreign visitors, he stressed.
Tanigaki, elected to the Lower House from the Kyoto No. 5 constituency, questioned the proposal by Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto in July to study the possibility of closing Itami airport, also known as Osaka airport. The domestic airport is near Kansai and Kobe airports.
"Although Itami is a domestic (airport), it is certainly indispensable for (the) Kansai (region)," the minister said. "Kansai's economic activities are based in the north (near Itami). (The importance of) Itami can't be denied."
Addressing the controversial subject of slashing public works expenditures, Tanigaki said "necessary" roads will be built in line with revenue.
Regional needs should not be entirely ignored, Tanigaki stressed. People in rural areas "will be in trouble if all (public works expenditures, including for snow removal and disaster relief) disappears," he said. "It is necessary for us to distribute resources while considering such things."
Tanigaki added that maintaining transparency in the spending of taxpayer money will be crucial.
Nevertheless, bureaucrats should not be daunted by public criticism, he said, adding his ministry should constantly be mindful of wasteful spending.
Citing the fatal derailment of a commuter train in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in 2005, Tanigaki said it is the carrier's responsibility to address the needs of survivors initially in the event of serious transportation accidents.