Terrie's Take 838 (Tourism Edition) -- Before Arriving, What Do Tourists Most Want to Do in Japan?
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Feb 15 00:47:39 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, Feb 14, 2016, Issue No. 838
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+++ Before Arriving, What Do Tourists Most Want to Do in Japan?
As I related in TT-836, I have been serving as a panel member of the
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism's (MLIT) 2016
Shoryudo project, which this year is focusing on food and beverage
tourism. In case you're wondering, Shoryudo was conceived by the nine
prefectures that make up the Chubu region, to promote central Japan
tourism - in particular tourism in their rural areas.
Chubu is blessed with some great destinations: Shirakawago, the
Tateyama/Kurobe Alpine route, Ise shrine, Gero onsen, and the Jigokudani
snow monkeys included. But while these are iconic drawing cards, apart
from ryokan operators, bus companies, and souvenir sellers, no one gets
to make much money out of the flow of visitors. Furthermore, once done,
few of those visitors come back. So the Shoryudo members want to change
that and encourage a lot more repeat visitors traveling to evermore
remote locations in Chubu to experience something new.
After 10 years, it's hard to say if Shoryudo has been successful, and
probably there needs to be a lot more work done in terms of online
marketing. However, with this year's concept of pairing sake and food to
create unique destinations and experiences, I do think that they are on
to a winning idea. Food is such a strong motivator and is a memorable
cultural touch point for foreign tourists exploring Japan, both before
(in raising expectations) and after (satisfaction and resulting
recommendations to friends) they come.
In fact, according to the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) quarterly tourist
survey, a data source that we've mentioned before, the number one thing
that foreign tourists want to experience before coming to Japan is to
try authentic Japanese food. For your interest, I ranked in order the
most popular things that tourists in general said they wanted to do
before coming to Japan. The sampling for this survey is around 5,000
people, which is big enough to make the survey results credible.
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For more information, contact tours at japantravel.com (web pages coming soon).
The following numbers were extracted from the Oct-Dec 2015 JTA visitor
survey, from the "Wanted To Do Most" section (Annex 3, multiple answers,
* Eat Japanese food 72.3%
* Shopping 60.1% (Asian visitors push this activity high)
* Nature/scenery sightseeing 52.6%
* Walking in shopping districts 43.3%
* Bathe in a hot spring 35.6%
* Stay in a Japanese-style inn 26.5%
* Drink Japanese alcoholic beverages 20.4%
* Theme parks 17.9%
* Experience Japanese history/culture 17%
* Seasons (cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, winter etc.) 15.8%
* Galleries/museums 14.9%
* Experience Japanese everyday life 14.3%
* Enjoy Japanese pop culture (fashion, animation, etc.) 9.4%
* Nature tours, Experience in farming/fishing village 6.1%
* Ski/snowboard 2.2% (Niseko and more recently Hakuba are buzzing with
foreign tourists, especially from China and Australasia)
* Performance (Kabuki, theater, music etc.) 4.2%
* Visiting film/anime settings 3.5%
* Spectator sport (Sumo, soccer etc.) 2%
* Other sports (golf, etc.) 1.7%
* Medical treatment/Medical check-up 0.8%
* None of the above 3.1%
Since the above numbers are multiple choice, they simply tell us the
wide range of the popular pre-conceptions that tourists have before
arriving. They also do tell us, however, how Japanese culture is
permeating the minds of consumers in the rest of the world -- with food
and beverages being near the top. Rustic inns in the countryside make
for great photos and are another enduring inspirational source.
The numbers also tell us what the Kasumigaseki bureaucrats are
interested in. For example, I'm guessing they broke up "Shopping" from
"Walking in Shopping Districts" in order to assess how many and what
nationality people are merely window shopping. Similarly, they appear to
be testing the waters for better utilization of outdated public
infrastructure like golf courses and other sports facilities. Then there
is the ongoing fascination in travelers interested in medical procedures.
Unfortunately, the problem with multiple choice is that it doesn't force
people to focus on THE one thing that matters to them, and discounts all
the "nice-to-do" stuff, so the JTA helpfully asks the same question
again but with a requirement to give only one response. This time, the
role of food as a motivator is very easy to see. I abbreviated this
second list to the top 10 items.
* Eat Japanese food 21.7%
* Nature and scenery and sightseeing 19.2%
* Shopping 18.4%
* Bathe in a hot spring 9.6%
* Theme parks 6.5%
* Walking in shopping districts 3.7%
* Experience Japanese history/culture 3.6%
* Seasons (cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, winter etc.) 3.5%
* Drink Japanese alcoholic beverages 1.1%
* Stay in a Japanese-style inn 1.8%
The above figures are of course a composite of the many nationalities
(JTA splits respondents into 20 source countries) that visit Japan.
There are some nationalities who are relatively unimpressed with
Japanese food, such as Chinese people, who after all have culinary
equivalents to many Japanese dishes. Instead, for the Chinese shopping
is most important, at 29.7% of respondents, then nature and sightseeing
at 26.4%, and finally food at 11.9%. Other Asian countries like Malaysia
also somewhat downgrade the importance of food, although most (other
than Malaysia) do in fact rate the food experience as number one because
of the relative variety and quality of food in Japan as compared to
their home countries.
OK, question. Thinking of national stereotypes, which nationality would
you think is most focused on food as a must-do experience before
arriving? The Italians or the French? If you guessed the French you'd be
right. A whopping 45% of French travelers when forced to pick the one
thing they most wanted to do in Japan, chose food. This was followed by
history culture at 12.5% and nature and sightseeing at 11.3%.
And what did those French people most enjoy eating in Japan after coming
here? Why sushi of course! 25% of them. But just before you think that
this is an obvious answer, in fact in the JTA survey the largest number
of people (19.3%) in the all-nationalities category actually most
enjoyed eating ramen, followed by 18.9% eating meat, and in third place
17.4% of respondents remembering their sushi encounters.
The various ministries in the government of course are very aware of
these entry/exit surveys, and the potential (positive) implications for
food tourism to rural communities. While it is MLIT running the Shoryudo
project, I'm sure that they are having plenty of discourse with their
colleagues over at the Ministry of Agriculture and of course the Cabinet
One of the big challenges for the current government in the face of
their acquiescing to the TPP trade agreement is how to wean their rice
farmers off subsidies, and indeed how to get more young people to become
farmers in the first place. One answer would appear to be helping
farmers diversify and make money from something other than domestic rice
supply. Food tourism could well be one of the keys to make this happen
-- much as it has done for rural Italy (which BTW allows agritourism to
qualify for the same government support and subsidies as does regular
...The information janitors/
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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
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