Quicker immigration clearance, access to unique venues among Japan’s new lures for MICE visitors

JAPAN Convention Bureau (JCB) is rolling out a number of measures to boost MICE footfalls as part of the country’s efforts to become a tourism-oriented destination with a targeted arrival of 20 million visitors by 2020.

Among the initiatives is the introduction of fast lanes for VIPs and international travellers attending business events in Japan next year, with Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport being the first gateways to offer this perk.

The country will also allow “trusted” travellers – frequent visitors to Japan who have been identified by the immigration authorities as posing “low risk” – to use automated gates at the immigration checkpoints.

Akira Ninagawa, executive director of JCB, who spoke to TTGmice e-Weekly during Visit Japan Travel Mart 2014 last week, also revealed that the bureau would identify unique venues and cultural programmes to attract more MICE groups.

Ninagawa said: “Places such as Tokyo National Museum, where we conducted the Japan Night (the opening dinner of Visit Japan Travel Mart 2014), Nijo Castle in Kyoto and Atakemaru (a Samurai ship) cruise round Tokyo Bay are unique venues we would like to introduce to international MICE visitors.”

Meanwhile, traditional art and craft sessions, tea ceremonies and geisha performances are some of the programmes proposed for incentive itineraries.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation, Asia contributed 90 per cent of incentive business to Japan last year. Ninagawa shared that Taiwan, South Korea and China are main markets.

Japan has also witnessed an immediate boost in incentive arrivals from Malaysia and Thailand after visa-free facility was granted to citizens of both countries last year. This has encouraged Ninagawa to expect similar growth in MICE arrivals from Indonesia and India which were offered simplified visa procedures at the start of this year.

Incentive footfalls are, however, not tracked in official data and are included as part of business travel arrivals. According to Ninagawa, 79,228 business travellers received support from JNTO in 2013, a 34 per cent rise over 2012.

Visitors for meetings and conventions totalled 250,000 last year.

“Moving forward, we are focusing on conferences and congresses that rotate in Asia-Pacific. We are also introducing new destinations such as Hokkaido and Kyushu,” he added.

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