MICE stakeholders in Sapporo have kept busy sprucing up their properties and expanding their portfolio to pounce when the gates open.
Hokkaido has long attracted Chinese business groups thanks to its natural environment, delicious cuisine and snow sports. Now, with new experiences, facilities and expertise, the island is gearing up to offer an even more appealing experience.
Close to New Chitose International Airport, the slopes and city experiences, Sapporo was often the choice for corporate meetings, incentives and teambuilding pre-pandemic, and the city hopes for that to continue. The Adventure Travel World Summit in September 2021, which is being hosted virtually by Hokkaido, is expected to provide an extra image boost.
“We have been flexing our muscles in sports and adventure tourism especially, by making best use of the extraordinary nature in Hokkaido,” said Ayako Kurosawa, a member of the incentive and corporate events team at Sapporo Convention Bureau.
“We’re sure that the high quality of powder snow will captivate the Chinese market more than ever; as the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics gets closer, winter sports will gain more popularity.”
Kurosawa’s team is banking on growing interest among the Chinese corporate events market for “diverse natural surroundings and unforgettable outdoor adventures in both green and white seasons”, to grow Sapporo’s appeal.
Glamping site Takibi, a two-hour drive from Sapporo, near Niskeo, has been revamped, and now sports a website in Chinese. With views of Mount Yotei, the camping ground offers numerous cottages, bell tents, an event space and walking paths.
The area has also expanded its team-building and incentive programmes, adding an “ice carousel” in Onuma Quasi-National Park, on which guests can lie down and look up at the sky. Meanwhile, Rutsusu Resort Amusement Park has launched charter bookings from summer 2022 starting from ¥1 million (US$9,190).
According to Kurosawa, Sapporo remains strong in offering other “wow experiences” too, such as snowball fights and photo scavenger hunts, which were popular with Chinese business groups pre-pandemic.
Hirofumi Watanabe, hotel general manager of Kiroro Resort, a 75-minute drive from Sapporo, is working with partners in China to develop cross-promotions, including discounted ski passes for Chinese guests once international travel resumes.
Kiroro Resort is also using fresh produce from the local Akaigawa area, another attractive offering as Chinese groups are big fans of fresh Hokkaido produce, shared Kurosawa, adding that seafood, Sapporo beer, lamb barbecue, local vegetables and dairy items such as ice cream are among the products frequently requested.
“Aside from skiing, the Chinese business market is particularly keen on Hokkaido crab,” added freelance travel consultant Cameron Stadin.
Sapporo Convention Bureau continues to train its staff to be ready to offer “flexible, interactive and tailor-made support,” noted Kurokawa, adding that it is now equipped with the expertise to make business events more sustainable.