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Key Courts Japanese Tourists In Tokyo

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

By Mark Geenty, NZPA correspondent

Tokyo, Oct 28 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key donned his tourism minister's hat in central Tokyo today to promote the rugby World Cup and try to boost flagging numbers of Japanese visitors to New Zealand.

After a private audience with the Japanese Emperor at the Imperial Palace, Mr Key attended the formal opening of Tourism New Zealand's giant inflatable rugby ball in front of the Tokyo Tower.

Part of the global promotion for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, the 25m long, 17m wide and 13m high inflatable ball is on show in a third major city in as many years, after Paris in 2007 and London last year.

The ball features a 10-minute audiovisual show about New Zealand and hopes to encourage tourism, investment and immigration.

After a powhiri, senior Shinto priest Nikko Toshogu performed a Shinto blessing.

Japan is New Zealand's fifth largest market for visitor arrivals, and in the year to August 2009 welcomed 80,000 Japanese visitors.

On a per-person basis, Japanese are highest spending visitors with spending an average $4698 per trip, compared with Australia at ($2372), the US ($3552) and the UK ($4006).

But arrivals from Japan have been declining since 2004 as a result of the weaker Japanese economy and exchange rate.

Tourism New Zealand said there were also changes in spending habits among younger Japanese travellers and an increase in cheaper short-haul travel within Asia.

Mr Key was to return to the site later tonight for the official tape-cutting ceremony and to deliver a formal opening speech, after which rising New Zealand singing star Maisey Rika was scheduled to perform.

Mr Key will hold talks with recently-elected Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tomorrow.

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