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Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

Japan Tourism Agency Web site seeks foreigner buzz

Staff writer

The Japan Tourism Agency is kicking off a Web site Tuesday to give foreigners a forum to pitch this country in their native tongues to promote more tourism.

On the Live Japan site, foreigners residing in Japan, mainly English speakers, will hopefully lure their families and friends to come over for a visit.

"It's an activity that approaches foreigners residing in Japan to invite their family members and friends more," a JTA official said, noting not much effort had been made in this direction in the past.

Registered users of the site, who first must answer a survey, will be deemed "correspondents" who share their Japan experiences with others by uploading pictures and writing blog commentaries.

Participants will qualify for points if relatives or friends access their blogs. Building up enough points will make them eligible for more than 500 prizes, including airline tickets, hotel vouchers and travel packages.

People can also win prizes by just completing the survey.

The promotion is part of Visit Japan, the government-sponsored campaign to attract more foreign visitors. The tourism agency hopes to attract 10 million foreign visitors next year.

The government launched Visit Japan in 2003, and the number of foreign visitors increased each year, reaching 8.35 million in 2008.

This year, however, the number is expected to fall below 7 million because of the swine flu outbreak, the yen's appreciation and the worldwide economic slump.

According to the agency, the number of foreign visitors has been declining since August 2008. Japan ranked 28th in the world and sixth in Asia in foreign tourists in 2008.

Seiji Maehara, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, has repeatedly stressed the need to increase foreign visitors. He brought forward the target year for increasing the annual number to 20 million by 2016 instead of 2020.

The Internet site's address is www.live-japan.jp

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The Japan Times

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