Terrie's Take 846 (Tourism Edition) -- How "Food Memories" Bring Travelers to Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Apr 10 23:27:36 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, April 10, 2016, Issue No. 846

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+++ How "Food Memories" Bring Travelers to Japan

This past few days, our Japan Travel business has been looking after a 
large group of businesspeople from asia. Managing groups of any size 
above 10 people is always a challenge and even more so here because of 
the complicated logistics of connecting public transport with people, 
bags, and venues, and food supplies with special diets and price ranges. 
Then there is the fact that we're in the middle of a travel boom - which 
in any case is making vendors more choosey and less cooperative about 
who they will accept and at what price range.

Of course this is why businesses opt to use DMCs in the first place, 
because they can have local experts get the complicated stuff done. 
Right now there is a surge of growth in the DMC sector, and regional 
players like Destination Asia Japan, Flocations, and Buffalo Tours are 
all here and are investing heavily in resources and facilities.

Japan Travel has done a number of inbound group tours on a test basis 
already, and for us the most desirable customers are business groups due 
to the fact that they are more interested in value-added experiences 
rather than in just price alone. That said, this type of customer is 
also challenging because the higher the collective wealth of the group's 
members, the higher their proclivity to want to change their schedules. 
In a case of "He with the money gets to make the rules", DMC staff can 
get seriously stressed out as a boisterous group tests it's boundaries.

Indeed, you can imagine the types of conversations that a spontaneous 
foreign group can have, and how they are the antithesis of Japanese 
merchants' need for predictability.
"Can we have lunch at 14:30? We're still shopping."
"Sorry sir. We stop serving at 14:00."
"What if we pay more to have you stay open?"
"Sorry sir, it's not possible." (Thinking, "Why don't you just obey the 
rules like Japanese do?")

...Yep, if there is one thing Japanese hoteliers and restauranteurs 
hate, it's an unpredictable group.

[Continued below...]

------------ Japan Travel Group Tour Services -------------

Japan Travel KK is pleased to announce the formal launch of our travel 
agency business, beginning with inbound services for overseas tour 
groups. We are one of Japan's few foreign-owned inbound DMCs to look 
after groups of 10-30, and we have already assisted school, business, 
special interest, and extended family groups. We specialize in creating 
unique experiences by crafting a blend of memorable destinations, 
dining, activities, guide, and transport options.

So what does your group want to do? Drive private cars in a convoy 
around Hokkaido for a week while visiting remote onsen? Board buses and 
experience a series of mountain-side sake breweries and whiskey 
distilleries? Cycle for 5 days around the rustic shoreline of Noto 
Peninsula in Ishikawa-ken? Take a simple Tokyo-Kyoto tour but with only 
vegan or halal dining? We can arrange any of these tours, combining them 
with our signature 24x7 multilingual support center, SIM cards, and 
multilingual guides.

If you have a group needing assistance, we invite them to contact us at: 
tours at japantravel.com. Or visit our pages at: 

Observing our current group of customers up close, and coupled with some 
research which includes this very good paper from the University of 
Surrey, UK "Factors Influencing Tourist Food Consumption" 
http://bit.ly/1VJqN0y, I have come to learn how important the role of 
food is in tourism.

Of course you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that people 
need to be able to eat safely and not get sick, and thus a good food 
experience is essential to creating and preserving a good view of a 
given destination. But food can also provide inspiration and turns on 
other strong emotions, which turn out to be particularly important if 
you want those travelers to become repeaters. More about this, below.

As we mentioned back in TT-835 on February 1st, food is a proven 
attraction point for foreign tourists. In the JTA's quarterly tourism 
survey of around 5,000 inbound travelers per quarter, 70.1% of 
respondees said that on a multi-choice basis, food was their top choice 
of things to try before coming to Japan. Perhaps more important was the 
number of those exiting who said what would make them want to come back 
again. This time, the ranking was 59.9% for those wanting to try even 
more Japanese food. Still a Number 1 activity. Although, but to be fair, 
this was followed more closely by Shopping (48.4%), Sightseeing (44.2%), 
and Onsen Bathing (43.7%). These numbers tell us that while the food 
experiences lived up to expectations, the other activities were better 
than originally expected.

So a good food experience is high on the list for Japan inbound 
travelers, and certainly for repeaters. The Surrey University paper 
discusses the concept of "food memories" and how past experience with a 
food significantly affects a tourist's attitude towards trying it again. 
This may explain why food is such a driver of Japanese inbound tourism, 
because with the spread of the nation's cuisine around the world in the 
form of sushi, ramen, tempura, etc., so many people have become exposed 
to it - and they yearn for more.

At the same time, because most tourists are outside their comfort zone 
while touring the Surrey University researchers say that they will also 
seek food they are familiar with, so as to reduce the stress of all the 
new stimuli. For visitors here, this means that they will seek out food 
that is similar to what they tasted at home even though it might not be 
authentic Japanese (food). This leads to frustration by tourists looking 
for a perfect California sushi roll in Shibuya. Yes, you might find a 
local interpretation but since it's not a native recipe it's not going 
to be as "good" as the ones back home. At the same time, stress moves 
travelers to eat familiar comfort foods, and this is why you see western 
tourists hungering for a Big Mac, Chinese for a spicy Shanghai 
restaurant, and the Indians for a real curry.

The Surrey University paper finds that there are five drivers in tourist 
food consumption:
* Symbolic - meaning how a nation's food represents the culture and 
creates feelings of an authentic experience
* Obligatory - meaning how food will agree with you and not make you 
sick. Also, just dealing with satisfying hunger.
* Contrast - this is where travelers deliberately seek something new, to 
validate their need for experiences they can tell their friends about
* Extension - this the food familiarity domain, which drives people to 
familiar flavors and recipes
* Pleasure - although primarily a motivator for gourmets, the factors 
here include sensory appeal and wanting to complete a missing experience

If you review these drivers and their definitions, you will find a 
similar pattern to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (which readers will know 
is a concept I use frequently in planning my businesses). In realizing 
this, we can match up the Surrey University drivers with different types 
of tourists and deduce what their food needs will be. For example, 
strict Muslims and vegetarian cultures will be very much concerned with 
Obligatory and Extension drivers (Physiological level for Maslow). 
First-timer visitors will be in the Symbolic and Contrast domains 
(Safety and Love/Belonging). And repeat visitors to Japan will be in the 
Contrast and Pleasure domains (Esteem and Self-actualization). That 
means that people at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy will be 
risk-averse and need new food services to support them - giving rise to 
Halal specialty supermarkets and restaurants, while people further up 
the hierarchy will be more adventurous and more likely to try regional 

By knowing this, not only DMC staff working on menus for their tour 
groups, but also restaurants and regional agricultural bodies can plan 
how they will develop their products and services, as well as who and 
where to market them to.

Interesting stuff.

...The information janitors/


----------------- Soy Sauce Recipe Contest ----------------
Your original dish could win you a cash prize! Send in your own recipe 
for either a Japanese dish or one from your own country, that uses soy 
sauce as an ingredient, for a chance to win ¥100,000! Deadline for 
applications is May 31, 2016
Grand prize - 100,000 yen x 1 person
Silver prize - 50,000yen x 2 persons
Bronze prize - 30,000 yen x 7 persons.


--------- [NEW!] Wildcard Incubator Program ---------------

KOEI COMPANY Inc. Presents its latest "Up Close" Tokyo Session 2016 seminar

KOEI COMPANY is a San Francisco based consulting/M&A practice, and the 
co-founder of the Wildcard Incubation Program. We will be hosting our 
latest seminar session in Tokyo for startups, entrepreneurs, and other 
internationally-minded business people, focusing on the Inbound business 
in Japan and how to launch a new businesses.

Main Speaker: Terrie Lloyd, Serial Entrepreneur, Founder/CEO Japan 
Travel K.K.
Moderator: Nobu Kumagai, Founder, KOEI COMPANY, Inc.
Title: "The Real Deal of Running an Inbound Business in Japan"

Details: Complete event details at http://upclose201604.peatix.com
Date/Time: April 12, 7-9pm, 6:30pm doors open
Venue: Connecting the Dots co-working space, Shibuya, Tokyo
Cost: 2,000 yen, please purchase tickets via Peatix Event Page: 
More information: nobu.kumagai at koei-company.com


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