Expanding tourism hardware and a pro-business innovation approach are fuelling Fukuokaâ€™s rise as a business events city
Fukuokaâ€™s position as a cruise port of call, start-up hub and one of only five global MICE strategic cities in Japan is helping the development of her corporate meeting and incentive offerings.
A total of 326 cruise ships called at Fukuoka in 2017, six times more than that of 2011 and the highest for any port in Japan, according to Japanâ€™s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The rapid rise in international visitors through cruises has facilitated the development of new dining venues, activities and experiences that are also attractive to culture-hungry incentive groups.
The popular waterfront area, incorporating Chuo and Hakata wharves, is undergoing extensive redevelopment as part of the 9th Fukuoka City Master Plan.
Highlights include a MICE vibrancy zone that will be home to new venues. Existing facilities and services will be revitalised. The goal is to have all event venues, lodgings, restaurants and other services â€świthin walking distance,â€ť detailed the plan.
Meanwhile, Fukuokaâ€™s reputation as a city for entrepreneurs and business innovators is boosting its appeal for corporate groups seeking learning opportunities. The city is Japanâ€™s only special economic zone, which has fuelled innovation, attracted entrepreneurs and stimulated new business opportunities.
Understanding the value of this, Fukuoka Convention and Visitors Bureau (FCVB) provides information on the cityâ€™s industries and universities, and connects innovators with business event attendees.
Companies utilising these connections want their incentive winners to learn about Japanese business practices, be inspired about entrepreneurship, or gain an understanding of Japanese culture.
An agent with a nationwide Japanese travel firm told TTGmice that recent years have brought increased bookings from foreign companies with branch offices in Japan, particularly in the areas of finance, automotive and video game development.
The FCVB is taking an increasingly tailored approach, working to connect corporate groups with the people it needs to make business events successful in the city. It also supports teambuilding activities created by local organisations.
â€śWe have our set menu of incentive activities, which include experiences such as fruit picking, taiko drum lessons, sushi making classes, and Hakata doll painting. However, we try to meet each incentive groupâ€™s needs,â€ť explained Kenny Macphie of the FCVB.
This year, the bureau connected an incentive group seeking kendo classes with Kyushu Universityâ€™s kendo club, and arranged a visit to a local elementary school for an incentive group eager to learn about the Japanese school system.
There has also been demand for sports matches with local baseball and rugby teams, which is expected to increase in the lead up to Japanâ€™s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Fukuoka will host the training camps of Italy and the US, as well as tournament matches.
The travel agent also noted a growing demand for events and experiences at unique venues such as museums and shopping centres â€“ requests that the FCVB is working to fulfil.
In November, a 200-pax incentive group visited the cityâ€™s retro shopping street Nakasukawabata Shotengai for a new teambuilding activity facilitated by the FCVB.
Participants were challenged to complete tasks such as hanging up a wooden wishing card at a shrine, making an origami figure, and finding a shop whose staff could dress them in yukata.
Macphie noted that 2017 brought 8,000 registered incentive pax to the city, with the largest proportion from Singapore and Taiwan.
As the North Asian markets of China, Taiwan and South Korea are mature for Fukuoka, industry players agree that South-east Asia is the next big market to watch.
Toshihiro Suzuki of Kinki Nippon Tourist expects a boom in incentive bookings from both South-east Asia.
According to Macphie, the FCBV is receiving more enquiries from Vietnam and the Philippines.