Japan to Promote Local Experiences Ahead of Olympics

HOSHINOYA Tokyo, a "ryokan in a tower" concept, opened in 2016. (Photo by HOSHINOYA Tokyo)

Japan is looking to raise its profile as a leisure travel destination with a focus on off-the-beaten-path, local experiences. Travel Agent spoke with Ryoichi Matsuyama, president of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), at a launch event for the JNTO’s new “Enjoy My Japan” marketing campaign.

“The popular image of Japan has been as more of an historical, cultural destination,” Matsuyama said. “But beyond that, we have ‘hidden beauties,’ too.”

Last year Japan welcomed 28 million visitors, but of those, only about 11 percent were from Europe and the United States, Matsuyama said. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon, the aim is to boost visitation to 40 million visitors representing $80 billion in spending by 2020. To do that, Japan will emphasize the country’s “hidden gems,” particularly outside the “Golden Route” of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

“We want to shift the focus from volume-oriented to quality-oriented activity,” Matsuyama said, noting that the JNTO will particularly focus on high-end and incentive travel.

As part of that process, the “Enjoy My Japan” global marketing campaign will highlight the country’s off-the-beaten-path attractions, with a particular focus on seven “passion points” the JNTO identified in traveler surveys. The “passion points” are cuisine, tradition, nature, city relaxation, art and outdoor, and the JNTO produced a series of video clips spotlighting each one.

One particular area of focus will be kominka, traditional Japanese homes that have been renovated for tourist stays. Setouchi DMO is among the destination marketing organizations (DMO) offering accommodation in these historic properties.

Ryokan, or traditional Japanese inns, will also be prominently featured. The Ryokan Collection is launching a new collaborative project called “Doors to Japan’s Quintessence” that will offer a number of bespoke experiences for luxury travelers.

In Tokyo, in 2016 a “ryokan in a tower” concept called HOSHINOYA Tokyo opened. Each floor of the 17-story structure is an exclusive area, accessible only by guests staying there and with its own dedicated staff.

For travel agents, the JNTO plans to offer a number of e-learning courses on its travel agent website. Based on the e-learning courses, the organization also plans to offer agent fam trips.

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