Terrie's Take 931 (Tourism Edition) - Wasted Opportunity at Sydney World Travel Expo

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Feb 12 07:41:13 JST 2018

* * * * * * * * 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 11, 2018, Issue No. 931

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie's Take at: 

+++ Wasted Opportunity at Sydney World Travel Expo

Life is full of interesting surprises, and currently I'm writing this 
edition of my Tourist Take from Sydney, Australia. Three weeks ago I was 
approached by Liberta Inc's CEO, Keijiro Sawano, to assist with a 
regional revitalization initiative called Heartland. I agreed and in so 
doing put together a series of seminars that will cover Australia, New 
Zealand, the UK, and Germany. We have just delivered the first set here 
in Sydney, and next week travel to Auckland. It's been a great learning 
experience so far - especially eye-opening has been the difference in 
attitude by Australians towards buying travel.

http://bit.ly/2EhSc5F [Heartland URL]

One of the first outputs of Sawano's Heartland project has been a 6-day 
(5 nights) trekking experience in the vicinity of Mt. Aso, to help the 
nearby Minamiaso community affected in the April 2016 magnitude 7 
earthquake in Kumamoto, to recover through inbound tourism. Sawano is 
creating local "slow travel" tours as a strategy to keep visiting 
tourists in the area longer, and of course consuming local products and 

Slow travel is a tried and true strategy used by local revitalization 
projects around the world, however, in Japan the strategy hasn't been 
that successful. Mostly this is because they are unable to create 
compelling "content" that encourages visitors to re-tell their 
experience to their friends. The best recent example of a failed slow 
travel strategy was the many millions (of dollars) spent by the Japanese 
government to encourage foreign visitors to go to Tohoku after the 
devastating 3/11 earthquake there. They tried food, festivals, and at 
one point even a free 3-year visitors visa to any Chinese visitors game 
enough to go there for one night. But even with this basic requirement 
there were very few takers, mostly on account of fears of the radiation 
problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Yeah, OK, maybe that example is less of a content problem and more one 
of primal fear...!

Anyway, Sawano should certainly have more luck with his walking tours in 
Aso, because:

1) Countryside and mountain route trekking in Japan has become 
extraordinarily popular with Australian and UK tourists in the last 2 
years. Partly this is because of the determined efforts of a few 
pioneers in the genre, but mostly (as I was told by a number of 
Australian expo travel agents) it's because of a 2016 TV mini-series by 
UK actress Joanna Lumley, who traveled throughout Japan and documented 
her interactions with local people. Either way, romantic routes such as 
the Nakasendo and Kumano Trail are getting crowded with visitors looking 
for a glimpse of Japan's fascinating past, coupled with the opportunity 
to meet local "real" Japanese.

[Continued below...]

--------- From Veggie Burgers to Carrot Cake --------------

Our commitment at Alishan Organics is to give our customers the best of 
western organic foods, but prepared with a Japanese twist. That's why 
our menus cover such a broad range of styles and tastes. If you're just 
getting to know us, why not visit our cafe by the river in Saitama? That 
way you can try out a variety of dishes and decide for yourself. Choose 
from an Amy's organic pizza straight from the oven, a mouthwatering 
veggie burger packed with seasonal greens and reds, or if you're feeling 
chilly, a filling vegetable curry with rice. And although we're healthy 
minded, we don't skimp on desserts. Favorites include Jack's scrumptious 
carrot cake, vegan brownies (of course with vegan icecream), and baked 
banana cheese cake.

Our Cafe: http://bit.ly/2m0r8z7
Our new online store: http://bit.ly/2v8gRpi

2) Now that there are enough foreign visitors who have walked the 
Nakasendo (anecdotally we were told about 10,000 people a year now) the 
word-of-mouth advertising is starting to spread, and certainly we see 
this in the inquiries coming in to Japan Travel's agency team. This 
new-found popularity is causing enthusiasts to starting looking for new 
routes and discoveries - like Sawano's offerings.

3) There is virtually no nuclear threat in the Aso area as the nearest 
operating nuclear power station is about 180km to the Southwest, in 
Sendai, Kyushu. This is about 30km further than the Fukushima Daiichi 
plant is north of Tokyo. And of course foreign tourists are still 
thronging the capital.

4) The Aso area makes for a great visit experience. Thanks to a lack of 
concentrated population, the region was largely spared during the War 
and as a consequence there is a remarkable number of ancient and/or 
traditional buildings preserved there - adding up to a satisfying dose 
of history and immersion for visiting tourists.

BTW, if you want to look up the percentage of cities that were damaged 
by bombing during WW2, this link is pretty interesting...

http://bit.ly/2EjfbNM [Bombing of Tokyo and Other Cities]

But back to the Sydney visit...

The trip was timed to coincide with the World Travel Expo in Sydney, 
held out at the Sydney Olympic Park grounds and hosted by Australian 
travel behemoth Flight Centre Australia [Australian spelling]. I do have 
to say that the Australians like taking their overseas holidays... the 
main hall at the expo was teaming with people who'd braved the long 
journey (several hours by train due to local track work) and heat.

The Flight Center folks certainly know their market, and it was 
noticeable how they had dozens of Flight Center travel consultants 
lining the perimeter of the exhibition hall, answering questions and 
recommending tours to customers lining up (at times) 3-4 people deep. I 
couldn't help wondering why, with the Internet, this type of 
human-driven sales service was really necessary, but obviously from the 
long lines the hype and excitement works. Crowd psychology and all 
that... certainly the mood was very upbeat, energetic, and impulsive. 
One could almost say it was a feeding frenzy.

Herein lies a very basic difference between how Australian and Japanese 
average consumers buy travel. Australians, and of course I am 
generalizing from this single event here, appear to buy travel the same 
way they go to the supermarket. They study the destination first of 
course, but when they are ready to buy they want a quick fix at a 
compelling price. If you don't have what they want, they'll go buy it 
from someone else who does. This, versus Japanese consumers, who want to 
study things to death for 3-6 months first before making a decision.

It's easy to see why Japanese firms are struggling to sell travel to 
non-Japanese consumers. They have missed the fact that you need to have 
a wide range of products that appeal to each specific niche, and that 
are ready to go when the customers are ready to buy. Apart from JTB and 
Hoshino Resorts (a very savvy company) we didn't see any Japanese 
private tour operators there. Instead, the Japanese presence was mostly 
local government booths.

One small interaction I witnessed highlighted the awareness gap for me. 
On the first day of the expo I was waiting for a colleague in front of 
the Kansai booth (funded by a group of Kansai prefectural governments) 
when an elderly trio of potential travelers of Chinese-descent came up 
to ask for information and pricing on food tours in the Kansai. They 
were specific that they wanted food tours - the Number One reason 
tourists visit Japan - and yet the Japanese gentleman behind the counter 
couldn't give them a single tour. Instead, he had to show them brochures 
of various towns and onsens, which included pictures of restaurants and 
meals on them. The frustration on the behalf of the trio was palpable, 
and while they took the brochures they quickly moved down to the next 
booth to ask the same question! This was an opportunity lost, and must 
have been repeated hundreds of times over the course of the expo.

The reason why they couldn't get the product information they wanted is 
that Japanese local governments don't want to be seen as favoring any 
particular local companies, so they don't carry specific tours. Instead 
everything is generalized and keyed to stimulating interest in the 
region as a whole. What these local governments don't understand is that 
Australian consumers already have a flood of information about Japan and 
its regions, they are highly motivated to come (numbers are up 20% a 
year for the last 3 years in a row) and they are past the inspiration 
stage of the consumer journey. Instead, they are ready to buy actual 
product. Just unfortunately, no one seems to be ready to sell them any - 
other than JTB and Hoshino of course.

...The information janitors/


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

Japan Travel's Type-2 licensed travel agency business is one Japan's few 
independent foreign-owned inbound DMCs. Our specialty is looking after
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Or visit our pages at: http://japantravel.co.jp/en/about/travel-agency/


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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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