tokyo

Tourism and services for an aging population may spur growth  in Japan, according to panelists at the July 7 ULI Japan Summer Conference in Tokyo. Discussing the business climate in Japan, CEOs from three prominent industries agreed that it is hospitable to foreign-owned companies.

Lufthansa German Airline’s Otto Benz began his address by pointing at a picture of an Airbus A380  named “Tokio.”

“We believe in the future of Japan,” said Benz, though he also noted that “Japanese airports are the most expensive in the world.”

Benz was optimistic about both the future growth of inbound tourism and potential in the Japanese senior market.

Next to speak was Mark Norbom, from General Electric Japan, who cheerfully noted that many Lufthansa planes use GE engines.

Norbom said that his company has been in Japan for many decades and now has over 5,000 employees and 50 offices. He said that it was not always easy to convince upper management to invest in Japan, but pointed to Japan’s technological strengths, abundant liquidity, strong yen and low interest rates.

GE expects to reap increased benefits because of its strong position in Japan’s healthcare sector, said Norbom, pointing out that by 2015 the population of Japanese over 65 will outnumber the citizens of Canada.

Norbom also mentioned Japan’s energy woes. “We have a large energy business, so it is important for us to try and help Japan meet that challenge,” he said.

Costco’s Ken Theriault oversaw the retailer’s highly successful move into the Japanese market. Costco now has 14 outlets in Japan, and at any one time as many as five are in the top 10 best selling Costco locations in the world. Among challenges for the company now, he said, is finding space for new stores.

And all three panelists agreed that Japan is, overall, a good market for foreign investment.


Read more about the 2012 ULI Japan Summer Conference: