Despite the many threats to international tourism in recent years, Japan has enjoyed year on year growth in its inbound tourism. In fact, Japan’s National Tourist Organization has revealed that in 2006 over 7.33 million tourists arrived in Japan, which is a substantial 9 percent increase from the previous year. The reason for this success lies in the “Yokoso! Japan” tourism campaign.
The campaign begun in 2003 as an initiative by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It had an immediate effect on inbound tourism growth, which grew from 5.2 million in 2003 to 6.7 million in 2005. The budget for the “Yokoso! Japan” campaign has also grown as a result, while initiatives in other public sectors have been drastically cut.
Director of JNTO, Mr. Hidenao Takizawa said, “For a long time, we have ignored inbound tourism altogether. However, through the Yokoso! Japan campaign, we have worked towards eliminating Japan’s negative images.”
The success of the tourism campaign has relied heavily on the collaboration of public and private sectors through its project and advisory teams as well as promotional committees. Together they have worked to market Japan as an affordable tourism destination with much to offer in terms of culture, history, dining, nature and attractions.
“Yet the language barrier is still our largest challenge – though we have increased the quality of our signs and equipment,” Mr. Takizawa added.
In the case of Australia, tourists from Down Under form a crucial share of Japan’s ski tourism market. As one of Japan’s key inbound markets, the months of April, May and June become important opportunities for the promotion of ski resorts such as Niseko and Furano.
“For 2006 alone, 195,100 Australian tourists arrived in Japan,” said Mr. Takizawa. “A majority of these tourists travelled to Hokkaido, where the powder-like snow fields make ideal conditions for skiing. Australian skiers are also growing in the Hakuba region, which is conveniently located closer to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.”
“While these visitors travel to Japan for the snow, we have also noticed that these skiers enjoy after ski tours to the ancient cities of Nara and Kyoto. In response to this, we have promoted tours which include both ski and after ski attractions,” added Mr. Takizawa.
JNTO is targeting 10 million inbound visitors by 2010. In order to achieve this, teams from across the globe will focus on strategies unique to the preferences of each market. Business travelers are also an area of growth, which will see JNTO further the promotion of Japan’s MICE market.