Japan’s Remarkable Recovery


WorldStrides recently joined the Japan Tourism Agency on a fact-finding visit to Japan. The Capstone programs division of WorldStrides has operated programs for universities to Japan for nearly three decades and was the only educational travel organization participating in this important mission. TravelMBA’s founder Rick Rosenfeld had the opportunity to tour the country and to assess the current situation in Japan. What Rick saw confirmed that Japan is indeed open for business. His account follows:

Flying into Narita Airport in Tokyo last week, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I have been sending groups to Japan for a decade and have some very close friends in the Japanese travel industry. We have stayed in close touch in recent months. The U.S. government and major governments around the world have all confirmed that Japan is safe to visit with no radiation concerns, aside from the 50-mile restricted area around the Fukushima plants.

What I saw on the ground in Tokyo and later in Kyoto confirmed my suspicions: Japan is open for business. Aside from higher temperatures set on building air conditioning and more focus on turning off televisions and lights when not in use, you would never know there had been such a devastating earthquake based on what you see in the big cities of central and southern Japan.

Yet what I experienced in Japan went far beyond “business as usual.” The Japanese people, who I have always considered reserved and formal with visitors, were warm, passionate, and open in discussing what happened earlier this year and their hopes for the future. When our small group was introduced to average citizens, their reaction was unanimous: “Thank you for coming, and please tell your clients that we want them to visit us.” By coincidence, our visit coincided with a visit and concert tour by Lady Gaga, who has raised millions of dollars to aid Japan in its recovery. The pop icon is sending a similar message to potential tourists, that Japan is—and always has been—a wonderful place to visit.

For schools still deciding on destinations for next year, Japan offers a unique opportunity for academic groups in 2012. Students can learn firsthand about how the government, businesses, and local communities recover from such a catastrophic event. Additionally, hoteliers and ground operators are signaling that they are willing to work with traveling groups to provide hotel rates that will partially offset the effects of the globally weak U.S. dollar. They believe that once a school experiences Japan, they will want to return in future years. Japanese companies appear happy to meet with groups to discuss business and to answer questions about how the earthquake has impacted and changed management philosophies and preparedness. Japan offers so much culture, nature, history, and cuisine to complement your business focus. It truly is a wonderful place to visit.

The University Division of WorldStrides is available to work with your school on setting up a trip, including business meetings and side trips, in Japan. This was a great trip for me, both personally and professionally. I hope you have an opportunity to experience Japanese hospitality, too.

To learn more about an academic trip to Japan, please email university@worldstrides.org or call 1-800-422-2368.