State officials spending $55,000 on Tokyo trip

1:38 PM, Jun 10, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Nearly 70 political and business leaders left on a flight that took off Monday afternoon from Denver to Tokyo. Officials have been pursuing this Asian flight since 1986.

Flight 139 departs Denver daily at 12:35 p.m. and arrives at Tokyo-Narita International Airport at 3:30 p.m. the next day. For the return, Flight 138 departs Tokyo at 5:25 p.m. and arrives in Denver at 1:15 p.m. the same day.

The officials included tourism director Al Smith, governor's aide Jamie Van Leeuwen and Sandi Moilanen of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and they'll all be spending this week pushing Colorado in Japan.

"This new nonstop flight will be a gateway into Colorado for Japan and other Asian countries," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said. "Already, Colorado is a top-five dream destination for people in the U.S., and we'd like to make it a top-five dream destination for Japan and throughout Asia. Japan is Colorado's fourth-largest source of foreign investment, and we want to help companies expand by taking advantage of Colorado's competitive business environment and highly educated workforce."

With more than $130 million in annual economic impact at stake, they'll be talking to companies about locating or expanding to Colorado. They'll be making the case that more Japanese should visit our state, and they'll be talking up local universities.

"This new nonstop service between Denver and Tokyo will build a new bridge between Colorado and all of Asia, strengthening our global connectivity and elevating the entire Denver area onto the international stage," Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. "We thank United Airlines for its partnership on this new frontier of opportunity and its commitment to the Denver market. Launching this nonstop flight to Japan will not only create new jobs, stimulate economic growth and increase foreign investment and trade, it will provide new avenues for tourism, education and cultural exchanges that will enrich both regions for generations to come."

But there is concern that if this flight is just a connecting point for other cities that the benefits may not spill over into the broader economy. That is why a big focus will be on tourism in the short-term.

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