Long enchanting visitors with its seductively mysterious cultural eccentricities, Japan’s unique tourism product continues to see exponential growth. Emily Millett writes.
Japan’s tourism industry has been going from strength to strength in recent years, with statistics from the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) showing rises in tourism arrivals across the destination.
Speaking to TTG about the trend, director overseas marketing business planning and promotion department, Hotel Granvia Kyoto, Shiho Ikeuchi said: “JNTO announced that the total number of international visitors to Japan from January to November 2015 was almost 18 million, a 47.5 per cent increase over 2014. This was primarily due to a weaker Japanese Yen and the relaxation of visa requirements.
Honing in on specific regions of the country, Hokkaido Tourism Organization also witnessed significant growth in 2015, with manager of inbound promotion, Hokkaido Tourism Organization, Kazuhiko Yoshioka explaining to TTG: “In 2015 we welcomed a large number of visitors from abroad. Every month the visitors increase by approximately 40 per cent from the same month of the previous year and it is likely the total number of foreign visitors to Hokkaido for 2015 will be around two million. Various projects are being implemented to encourage tourists to visit different destinations or travel during different season and we are also working to increase the number of guest rooms in Hokkaido.”
Japan’s major cities specifically have been welcoming an influx of foreign visitors recently according to director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, Hirofumi Watanabe, who commented: “Kyoto in particular has high recognition around the world as a tourist destination, and its tourism market has grown compared to last year. Our hotel’s sales have also grown significantly, especially among wealthy Western guests. We expect this trend to continue in 2016.”
TRADITIONAL MARKETS WIDEN
Traditionally Japan’s tourism market has been predominantly ruled over by three main markets; the cultural travellers, the shopping tourists and the corporate business visitor. Today, as the industry grows in leaps and bounds, the long-established markets are expanding to welcome increasing numbers of luxury travellers and adventurous visitors.
Speaking to TTG about the consistency of traditional markets Ikeuchi said: “Cultural experiences and shopping were two key terms in 2015. Due to the government’s tax-free measures, international visitors benefit when they enjoy shopping in Japan.” Located in the Kyoto Station complex – home to one of the premier department stores in Japan, as well as two underground shopping malls, Hotel Granvia Kyoto offers multiple shopping experiences and exclusive Kyoto cultural experience packages that include private guided tours of UNESCO world heritage sites.
Commenting on some of the new markets emerging onto the tourism scene, general manager, Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo, Jens Moesker explained to TTG: “Tokyo is a perfect city for shopping, sightseeing and gourmet dining with its unique mixed culture of tradition and subcultures. But there is also a rapid increase in the arrival of international travellers who crave luxury hotels. We believe this is due to depreciation of the Japanese Yen, the ease of the Japanese visa application in the last two years and also the government’s initiative to drive more international visitors before the Olympics in 2020.”
According to Moesker, the other trend currently being witnessed in Japan is the propensity of repeat travellers staying in the big cities for a shorter period and instead spending time exploring the unbeaten tracks of the country. “Travellers prefer to combine a familiar and comfortable experience in Tokyo with an adventurous trip out of Tokyo,” Moesker told TTG. “Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo provides a seamless transit to anywhere in Tokyo and Japan, as the hotel is conveniently located adjacent to Tokyo Station.”
EXPERIENCE LIKE A LOCAL
As adventure travellers, luxury seekers and repeat guests start playing a significant role in shaping the industry, a new desire to experience authentic Japan is being witnessed across the country.
“There has also been an increase in connoisseurs of high-end hospitality from all over the world, and they are not only visiting for shopping or sightseeing, but are also looking for truly local experiences during their stay,” said director of sales and marketing, Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, Shuichi Ohno.
A destination so steeped in a distinctive and enchanting cultural history, Japan is an ideal destination to take advantage of the world’s sudden penchant for experiential travel. Guests can now experience the intricate and mesmerising world of the Ryokans – or traditional Japanese inns.
Speaking to TTG about the inspirational collection of experiences that Secret Retreats can offer guests to Japan, the company’s, managing director, Stéphane Junca said: “Secret Retreats is still quite young, but 2015 was the year we received the most enquiries for Ryokans in Japan. In 2016, we aim to add a few more Ryokans to our collection, in less travelled areas rich in authenticity and the traditional ‘omotenashi’ sense of hospitality, around Akita, Sendai or Kyushu.
As Japan continues to grow in popularity, the destination is looking to expand its horizons in tune with the rise in demand for experiential travel and local authenticity.