Business delegation aims to sell Catalonia in Japan
Ministers visit Tokyo and Yokohama to meet Nissan executives, boost trade and attract more Japanese tourists
Meeting with executives from automaker Nissan, the rise in Japanese tourism and potential Barcelona-Tokyo flights, and channeling more goods from Japan through Barcelona's port have been at the top of the agenda for a Catalan business delegation to Japan this week.
On Wednesday, Catalan business minister, Àngels Chacón, met top executives from Nissan at the company's HQ in Yokohama to talk about how the sector is changing, as well as the vehicle manufacturer's plans for its plants abroad, including in Catalonia.
Chacón met with Nissan vice president, Osamu Goto, and the director of international relations, Miyuki Takahashi, to assure them of "the support of the Catalan government" so that "the Nissan plant, or any other industry, does not decide to leave Catalonia."
Reports of Nissan closing European plants quashed
Media reports in October suggested Nissan is considering selling its plants in the UK and Catalonia, but at the time company sources denied "plans to sell its European plants," while the minister insisted that she had been personally reassured that the reports were "false."
The government says that it makes no sense for Nissan to leave after announcing a 70-million-euro investment in new facilities. Nissan is the second-largest industrial firm in Catalonia, employing 5,000 people, and indirectly accounting for another 15,000 jobs.
In July, Catalonia's Nissan workers went on strike over the firm's intention to lay off 12,500 workers around the world. Yet, talks led to a deal in which the Barcelona plant will shed 600 employees through early retirements and voluntary redundancies.
Barcelona the "best entryway" into Europe
Another key meeting during the Catalan business delegation's trip to Japan, which continues until Thursday, saw territory minister, Damià Calvet, call for direct flights between Barcelona and Tokyo, given that some 190,000 people now fly between the two cities every year.
Calvet promised to provide his Japanese counterparts with information from studies exploring the "importance" of such a link, while the meeting also looked at establishing joint objectives between the Catalan and Japanese port authorities.
Earlier, in a business conference involving 225 Japanese entrepreneurs, the Catalan government and the Catalan capital's port authority presented Barcelona as the "best entryway" into Europe for Japanese trade.
It was a view shared by the head of the Ports and Harbors Bureau, Masayuki Takada, who welcomed the strong trade links between Barcelona and Japan, saying "forecasts point to a greater exchange of goods, such as automobiles, wine or meat products."
Video game to help boost tourism
Tourism is also a priority on the trip, with Chacón presenting a campaign to attract more Japanese visitors, which includes the video game 'Legends of Catalonia', made with the participation of former Barça captain, Carles Puyol, and mountaineer, Edurne Pasaban.
Japanese tourism will grow by 30% in the coming years, says the government and the Catalan tourist agency. Last year, 300,000 Japanese people visited Catalonia, spending an average of 472 euros a day, making Japan a "strategic and priority" market.
"The Japanese tourist perfectly reflects the objectives of our new Strategic Tourism Plan, contributing to diversifying the industry, extending it throughout the year, and raising the daily spending of tourists," said Chacón.