Japan spreads MICE visitorship through sustainable tourism focus


Increased awareness of sustainable tourism and efforts by the Japanese government to promote the country’s regions are expected to stimulate nationwide growth of Japan’s incentive travel market, opined industry experts attending Visit Japan Travel and MICE Mart (VJTM) 2018 at Tokyo’s Big Sight last week.

In 2017, Japan welcomed a record 28.69 million tourists, up 19 per cent year-on-year. Most of them, including business events guests, visited Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. However, the Japan National Tourism Organization is working towards a government target of 70 million nights by international visitors in rural Japan by 2020, nearly three times the number in 2015.

Speakers at the roundtable held alongside VJTM. Photo credit: Kathryn Wortley

At the 2nd Tourism Expo Japan Ministerial Roundtable held alongside the VJTM on September 20, Hiroshi Tabata, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, said “the regeneration of local regions is a key to sustainable tourism”.

Gloria Guevara Manzo, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, added that the “community” should be at the centre of sustainable tourism.

In response to this movement, Keijiro Sawano, CEO and founder of ground operator Heartland Japan – when interviewed at VJTM – indicated that the company has just launched a 6D5N tour in rural Hiroshima Prefecture. The tour revolves around exploring natural landscapes, meeting local people and trying cultural activities. Recognising that attendees can be best targeted from large, well-known hubs, this tour departs from Hiroshima City rather than a rural area.

Sawano revealed he had been working with the locals last year to develop the itinerary, which he indicated will benefit both locals and visitors, as this tour provides a deeper immersion into Japanese culture and promotes interaction with locals.

The trade is also eyeing corporate hospitality groups that will attend the Rugby World Cup 2019, which will be held in 12 stadiums across Japan. Other events, such as the Women’s Handball World Championship in Kumamoto Prefecture in 2019, are also expected to provide a boost to the rural areas.

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