Destination Japan

A modern destination with tradition as its backdrop, Japan is laying deep foundations for the future of its tourism industry. Natalie Hami discovers.

For many who have yet to visit Japan, the mere mention of the culturally-immersive destination may evoke typical images of the renowned character Hello Kitty or maybe even the recent news on the fascinating Aoshima island dominated by our feline friends.

However, this dynamic destination, whose vibrant capital city of Tokyo will be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, has a very distinct tourism product that it has been successfully promoting to an international audience for a while now. Despite this, industry predictions for Japan have been stating that it is headed for massive growth, not only due to the 2020 Summer Olympics but also due to increasing investments in the destination.

IMEX Frankfurt 2020

This was highlighted by owner and managing director, Windows to Japan, Avi Lugasi, who revealed to TTG: “We have seen rapid growth in tourism to Japan since last year and I expect it to continue growing to 2020 (the year of the Olympics) and beyond.”

As such, Japan’s stakeholders are working together to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to welcome increased visitors in the short–and long-term.

Head of PR and marketing, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), Kylie Clark exclusively told TTG: “In the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan is expecting a boom in hotel construction and various transport infrastructure developments are already on track to be completed before 2020.” According to Clark, Japan has a great deal of such developments in the pipeline including a new bullet train (shinkansen) from Tokyo to the Hokuriku area (last stop Kanazawa) which has recently launched and multi-lingual signage, making travel around Japan faster and easier.

This was seconded by head of corporate communications, Fujita Kanko, Makoto Komiyama who told TTG: “The Japanese government’s efforts to promote the country as an attractive destination is significant. I am optimistic that the growth in our tourism sector will continue along this trajectory.”

ALL TOGETHER NOW

However, these mass enhancements are not only being undertaken by JNTO but are being bolstered by the various regional tourism bodies which have set their sights on providing a warm welcome to potential visitors.

Senior staff of promotion section, Hokkaido Tourism Organization, Shizue Ishibashi explained that the organisation has a 2014-2017 promotional strategy for inbound tourism with three goals. These include: to develop Hokkaido as a tourism destination of high quality within global standards; to provide safe and comfortable conditions for overseas tourists; and to gain repeat visitors and loyal customers to Hokkaido.

And in order to cater to these expected visitors, Ishibashi noted the developments that ought to take place. “As the number of FIT is on the rise, we are aware that visitors look for more detailed information on websites, practical town information which tourists can check on smart phones or their tablet while they are in Hokkaido, tourism information centres operating in multiple languages and signage in multiple languages.”

The more traditional city of Kyoto, known for its awesome sight of cherry blossoms from March through to mid-April, also has its own strategy in place in the form of ‘Kyoto Tourism Promotion Plan 2020’.

According to director of tourism industry – Kyoto City, Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mayo Mieno, the tourism body has a goal of attracting three million foreign guests to stay in Kyoto per year. Mieno also elucidated on the way in which Kyoto is laying the groundwork to magnetise these visitors. “It is necessary to strengthen Kyoto’s environment for welcoming tourism in expectation of an increase in tourist numbers, and on the ‘soft’ side, we have created a ‘Kyoto City Certified Interpreter/Guide System’ for producing interpreters/guides with knowledge spanning the things that overseas guests would want to know about, such as information on history and culture.”

INDUSTRY-WIDE APPROACH

While Japan’s various tourism entities lay out plans to attract visitors but at the same time ensure that they are ready to receive them in an authentic Japanese manner, the destination’s hospitality sector is seeking to keep up with fresh focuses and enhancements.

Director of sales and marketing, Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hill, Shuichi Ohno explained the property’s plans toTTG: “We are aggressively developing the individual business traveller [segment] from overseas as there is a potential for business development in Japan until the 2020 Olympic Games.”

Meanwhile, Hotel Granvia Kyoto will be making more visible enhancements with a planned renovation, according to the hotel’s director, overseas marketing, business planning and promotion department, Shiho Ikeuchi. “[It] will include upgrading our executive lounge on the top floor, all of our 535 guest rooms and suites, and some of the restaurants. We are aiming to complete the entire renovation by March 2019.”

Ikeuchi also pointed out the significance of consistency in terms of the high level of service provided at the property. “The more world-renowned our reputation as a premier hotel becomes, the higher our guests’ expectations also become. Thus, we continually strive to provide the premier hotel experience, and quite honestly, we continue to learn from our valued guests.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo will also be undergoing similar improvements, according to multi property vice president – Japan and Korea, John Rolfs, who told TTG: “We started a re-mastering of the hotel interior design from 2014 in order to continue to meet the needs of our international and domestic guests as well as to reinforce our hotel image. It is conducted under the design theme of ‘East meets West’, with keywords such as Tokyo, Japan and Roppongi in order to add ‘sense of place’ to the hotel interior. Rolfs, who is also the general manager of the property, highlighted that the theme is reflected in the use of Japanese craftsmanship and materials, such as lacquer, kimono textile and design, called ‘kawara’ in a contemporary design setting.

Japan’s already cultivated tourism product is being thoughtfully and precisely fine-tuned with a view to increasing visitor numbers in the long term.