Terrie's Take 836 (Tourism Edition) -- Government Attitude to Inbound Tourism Changes
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Feb 1 09:22:03 JST 2016
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S (TOURISM) TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.
Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, Jan 31, 2016, Issue No. 836
SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie's Take at:
+++ Government Attitude to Inbound Tourism Changes
Last Thursday was a beautiful if chilly day across most of Japan. I was
in Nagoya for the day, attending the first panel meeting for the
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT, parent
of the Japan Tourism Agency - JTA) for their 2016 Shoryudo project. The
Shoryudo (so-called "Rising Dragon Road") is a collaborative effort by
the nine prefectures of Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu, Nagano, Mie, Shiga,
Fukui, Ishikawa, and Toyama, to develop their rural destinations for
While I'm not big on spending time with government planners, this
project is interesting because it focuses on food as a tourist
attraction, pairing award-winning sakes from the region's many breweries
with equally delicious food specialties. By focusing on food I believe
the government guys are right on the mark, since polls show that the one
thing most (70.1% according to the JTA's massive quarterly survey)
tourists want to do before coming to Japan is to try authentic Japanese
food. Shopping, which is second on the list, only comes in at 53.6%.
Further, especially for Asian tourists, who are most likely to be
repeaters and thus are probably most desirable travelers from a
commercial point of view, food significantly exceeds their expectations.
Take South Koreans and Chinese travelers, for example, who before coming
to Japan scored around 60%-63% wanting to try food as an activity,
neck-and-neck with shopping. Yet going home, 94%-96% of them felt that
the food was a memorable experience (versus shopping at 78% for Koreans
and 92% for Chinese). So food is a big drawing card and the Shoryudo
folks are trying to leverage that to have Asian repeaters venture
further from their comfort zone of the "golden triangle"
Japan's bureaucrats have always had a deep involvement with inbound
tourism, starting (in recent times) with copious post WWII rules and
regulations about who could guide foreign tourists around and who got to
gate-keep the sector. That built up a group of vested interests that
strangled Japan's inbound travel for many years. Then, because of the
low growth, the government never took inbound travel seriously and so in
2012 in Terrie's Take 677 (http://bit.ly/1P6NxSg) I lamented the fact
that Japan was spending just 50% of what the Swiss do for inbound travel
promotion. How little did we all realize that just a year later, the
falling yen and relaxation of the visa rules would unleash a flood of
Now central government is starting to get a clue. It became clear in
mid-December 2015 that inbound tourism was headed for a blow-out year,
in fact 19.73m visitors were finally tallied for the year, and the
bureaucrats have realized that they have a new golden goose in their
hands. As a result, they have since announced an increase of the
nation's tourism budget by more than double that of 2014 to JPY20bn.
This sudden surge of cash will apparently be spent on everything from
free WiFi nationwide in public facilities, changing squat toilets to
western ones at ryokan hotels, and developing more cultural assets and
specialty products and services, to, of course, promotion and research.
----------- World Class Ski Resort Land For Sale ----------
While all the attention for snow sports properties has been focused on
Niseko in Hokkaido over the last ten years, now investors are starting
to realize that there are more convenient locations on Honshu that offer
the same snow quality and landscapes for more affordable prices. This
property is 25 hectares adjacent to ski lifts (approx 50m at nearest
point). Includes 3.3 ha with no development restrictions on 9 separate
contiguous titles (200% plot ratio), and 22 ha of Grade 3 national park
on 8 titles which can be developed within guidelines.
Available for asking price of US$2,000,000 or near offer. Contact
ggassoc at ozemail.com.au
Tourism is really starting to take a front seat in Japanese public
discourse because it's one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dark
horizon. Last year's surge of visitors spent a record ¥3.48trn on
shopping and services, up 71.5% from 2014. By our reckoning, this is
amount is approximately 0.64% of the nation's GDP as a direct impact,
and if you take into account all the related effects (tourist-related
infrastructure and employment), probably the economic impact is more
like 1.2%-1.5% of GDP. We got this number by comparing ratios of direct
vs. indirect economic impact for the domestic tourism sector (for which
there are stats). In one Nikkei report, the commentators were saying
that the sector is now as big as the nation's auto parts sector. If
that's true, and this sector may yet grow another 50%, then inbound
tourism is going to become a lot more important to Kasumigaseki.
From what I can see, what now worries the bureaucrats are the following
* How to move overall tourist spending (i.e., travel and accommodation)
back into Japanese hands, since such a large portion is swallowed up by
foreign or foreign-owned firms who have better marketing overseas and
can "lock in" the tourists before they ever get here.
* How to get tourists to start traveling to economically depressed parts
of the country and help pump more cash into local coffers.
* How to keep the whole thing snowballing and see if the 2020 target
can't hit 30m inbound travelers.
* How not to lose control and in particular not have any really bad
international incidents that could tarnish Japan's image.
The big realization by government entities over the last year has been
that Japanese travel-related firms are not very good at marketing, and
that the world is a big place that readily soaks up the budgets of the
clueless. Therefore, if the government is to help its corporate citizens
reclaim some market share, they not only have to understand what makes
foreign tourists tick but also they need to create a broader range of
attractive destinations so that more foreigners repeat travel and move
away from the main centers (where the foreign firms are located) to
spread the money around.
So for the first time that I can remember, the government is now
starting to talk about "gaijin mesen" (foreigner viewpoint) and is busy
recruiting local foreigners in the travel sector (including your's
truly) to help provide input as they lay down plans and budgets for the
next 3-5 years. Over the last 3 years I've sat on 5 different central
government and regional government panels where the central issue has
been to identify what foreigners could possibly want to do in each
place. Usually it boils down to a mix of the obvious and the
inspirational. "Inspiration" of course being different depending on
which culture and socio-economic segment you are trying to motivate.
Segmentation is something difficult for bureaucrats to understand.
One of the best panels I've sat on was one several years ago for the
JTA, where we were focusing on the messaging for a large web video
project (150 videos covering the whole country). The panel, which
consisted of 5 foreigners of different nationalities (all a lot smarter
and experienced than me), found that probably the best "asset" Japan
wasn't the temples, mountains, or spotless cities, but rather, the
people. While this is but one example, I feel this was a very
fundamental mind shift for the bureaucrats involved, because the panel
was challenging them to start investing in the guy running pottery
classes, rather than widening the road that would get tourists to the
It's going to be interesting to see just where Kasumigaseki bureaucrats
will take their involvement in tourism. No doubt the change will be long
and slow in coming, but already I see in JTA advertising that people do
indeed now feature more prominently in overseas messaging, and that more
foreigners are being co-opted into helping craft that message.
...The information janitors/
---------------- ICA Event - February 18th ----------------
Speaker: David Malkin - Reactive Inc. - Data Scientist Statistics &
Title: "Everything is Computation - In the Real World of Artificial
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included with charges and pay as
you go cash bar.
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members). Open to all. No sign
ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: By 1pm on Monday February 15th, 2016, venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan
SUBSCRIBERS: 6,828 members as of January 31, 2016 (We purge our list
+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
HELP: E-mail Terrie-request at mailman.japaninc.com with the word 'help' in
the subject or body (don't include the quotes), and you will get back a
message with instructions.
Send letters (Feedback, Inquiries & Information) to the editor to
terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com.
For more information on advertising in this newsletter, contact
ads at japaninc.com.
Get Terrie's Take by giving your name and email address at
http://www.japaninc.com/newsletters/free_sign_up, or go straight to
Copyright 2016 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.
----------------- Japan Inc opens up Japan ----------------
J at pan Inc authoritatively chronicles business trends in Japan. Each
posting brings you in-depth analysis of business, people and technology
in the world's third largest economy.
Visit www.japaninc.com for the best business insight on Japan available.
More information about the Terrie