U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Tetsuo Saito signed a memorandum of cooperation designating 2024 as the ‘U.S.-Japan Tourism Year.’ to strengthen tourism and business exchanges between U.S. and Japan, which have declined due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S.-Japan Tourism Year is a game-changer, opening new avenues for economic growth and deepening our bonds," Ambassador Rahm said. "This initiative isn't just about travel; it's about strengthening ties, boosting economies, and exchanging culture.”
“We hope the Tourism Year will provide an opportunity for all of us to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances with whom we have fallen out of touch due to the pandemic,” Minster Saito said. “The U.S. and Japan share 464 sister-city relationships, and we hope our two countries will take advantage of the Tourism Year to resume and further promote exchange at the local level.” Also, he mentioned 2024 will mark the 90th anniversary of Babe Ruth's visit to Japan for the Japan-U.S. baseball team, and expressed his desire to "deepen tourism exchanges through sports.”
For the Japan-U.S. Tourism Exchange Year, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office and U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and Brand USA on the U.S. side, and by the Japan Tourism Agency, the Japan National Tourism Organization, and the Japan Association of Travel Agents on the Japanese side.
Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, Brand USA’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, revealed that Brand USA will implement a consumer advertising campaign and a sales mission for the travel industry. “We would like to use this Year of Tourism Exchange as an opportunity to return Japan to the number two spot in terms of number of visitors to the United States (long-distance market),’ he added.
Approximately 3.8 million Japanese tourists visited the United States in 2019. Expenditures amounted to $13 billion (approximately 1.9 trillion yen). According to Brand USA, the number of Japanese tourists visiting the United States in October 2023 will remain at 46% compared to October 2019.
By 2027, the United States is aiming at 90 million foreign tourists per year, with total spending of $279 billion (approximately 41 trillion yen).
Smoother immigration control in both directions
Taro Kono, Minister of Digital Agency of Japan, said that he hopes to build an online system for the Global Entry Program (GEP) by the end of 2024. The Japanese and U.S. governments have already agreed to the full-scale operation of the GEP bilaterally.
The U.S. GEP, operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is a system that simplifies the process of entering the U.S. by air for low-risk travelers who have received prior approval. If you participate in this program, you will be able to complete immigration procedures by scanning your passport or visa and performing fingerprint verification at an automated kiosk at the arrival airport, allowing you to enter the country smoothly without having to wait in line at immigration.