Smaller destinations surrounding Japan’s popular cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are taking promotions into their own hands, to attract corporate traffic to lesser-known attractions and activities.
This comes in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next May, which are expected to drive up crowd density and hotel prices in the city. This concern may potentially discourage visitors from choosing Japan altogether, expressed Tadashi Kaneko, executive vice president, Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).
While JNTO plans to focus on promoting local gems in outlying regions – it has worked with local prefectural governments and suppliers to launch the 100 Experiences in Japan book – local CVBs are also rolling out their own programmes.
For instance, Kobe City launched its After MICE programme in August this year, which encourages delegate and corporate groups to experience the city through 20 shortlisted activities in a guidebook.
One hour by train outside Tokyo, Shizuoka City is shouting out to groups who might be interested in “green tea tourism” – tours that feature picking green tea leaves, brewing green tea and experiencing an affordable tea ceremony in a private garden led by a tea ceremony master.
“A lot of people know the big city experiences of Tokyo and Osaka, but not a lot of people know what this kind of (peaceful) experience in Japan is like,” said Motohiro Yamashita, sales sub manager, Shizutetsu Retailing, which runs private tea inn Cha No Hana Tei.
Meanwhile, Nikko City located two hours north of Tokyo, is also launching a programme for large groups of visitors to participate in the local float festival, and is rolling out free tourist admission to a slate of attractions from January to February next year. Nikko City will also be welcoming a MICE-ready hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, next summer, positioned at the east end of Lake Chuzenji.
Furthermore, several DMOs are also stepping up their trade outreach efforts to market their myriad offerings. For example, Kansai Nara Treasure Travel is participating in more international tradeshows, such as Visit Japan Travel Mart, to promote its night tours and private access tours to restricted temples and shrines in Nara.
“We can also conduct night visits with a special dinner in the temple,” said Sayuri Fujimoto, inbound division, concierge, Kansai Nara Treasure Travel.