A life cycle analysis of nature-based tourism policy in Japan

Jones, Thomas

This paper uses Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC) model to track the rise and fall of nature-based tourism (NBT) in Japan through six stages of nature park visitation from “Exploration” to the post-stagnation stages of either “Decline” or “Rejuvenation”. First, “Exploration” examines the marriage of indigenous travel culture with Westernized perceptions of landscape. NBT’s regional development role strengthened in the “Involvement” stage, when systemization of national parks and package tours paved the way for mass tourism. In the postwar era, urban demand for NBT soared; “Development” was increasingly centralized and bundled with land use policies, but by “Consolidation” visitation growth had cooled due to intensifying competition between resorts and from abroad. In the domestic market, inequalities intensified, but overall NBT visitation leveled off, causing “Stagnation”. Public-private consortiums galvanized communities into large-scale development projects epitomized by the Resort Law, but the financial and environmental consequences were disastrous, leading to “Decline”. In the post-bubble era, ecotourism showed potential for “Rejuvenation”, but to be effective it needs more integrative policy objectives, a consistent framework, longterm fiscal commitment, and capacity-building among rural communities. Therefore, this paper proposes a twin ecotourism strategy that promotes grandstand venues such as UNESCO sites while supporting grassroots satoyama/umi areas.