Infrastructure improvements are vital as tourist arrivals surge

IATA has called on Japan to improve its airport infrastructure as the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo looms large.

Japan has set aggressive targets for attracting international tourist arrivals for the Olympic year and beyond. In 2016 Japan welcomed some 24 million international tourists. In 2020, Japan hopes to welcome 40 million visitors, who are expected to spend $70 billion (JPY 8.0 trillion). And the 2030 target is to attract 60 million overseas visitors with expected tourism receipts of $130 billion (JPY 15.0 trillion).

We are moving in the right direction and there is still more to be done 

Successful infrastructure planning will play a key role in the continued growth of tourism in Japan.

The development of Tokyo-Haneda Airport’s international network, the privatization of Sendai and Osaka’s Kansai and Itami Airports, and continuous efforts to improve competitiveness by reducing costs and optimizing infrastructure all are welcome developments.

“Not that long ago Japanese airports were the most expensive in the world,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

“They are not cheap today, but Kansai and Narita have dropped from among the 10 most expensive to 13th and 23rd respectively.

“We are moving in the right direction and there is still more to be done — particularly at Haneda which is bucking the positive trend by raising charges.”

In preparation for the expected surge in passengers traveling to the country, IATA urged a comprehensive plan for the development of a more competitive Japanese air transport infrastructure.

The Olympics are an important milestone and an impetus to get things done

While Japan is a leader in self-service technology for domestic operations, many features are not available for international travelers.

To maximize terminal efficiency in advance of the Olympics, IATA has urged Japan’s airports to prioritize enabling international travelers to take advantage of mobile boarding passes, kiosks and home-printed bag tags.

IATA has also expressed its support for the Collaborative Actions for Renovation of Air Traffic Systems (CARATS) to deliver the promised doubling of airspace capacity. Airspace is a particular constraint in Tokyo and IATA also called for government efforts to alleviate congestion by opening more airspace over central Tokyo.

“The Olympics are an important milestone and an impetus to get things done,” de Juniac added.

“But it must be part of a long-term joined-up planning process focused on the big prize of welcoming 60 million visitors to Japan annually —and keeping Japanese businesses and people efficiently linked to the world.”