Incentive travel interest in Japan soars with reopening hopes

Incentive travel to Japan, particularly from Asia, is showing signs of rebound, buoyed by the pending announcement of Japan’s full opening this October.

Asian incentives are expected to return in significant numbers from September to March, to experience the koyo (autumn leaves) views and winter season.

Staff at Sapporo Convention Bureau (SCB) are fielding new enquiries and rescheduling incentives that have been postponed for more than two years.

The strongest interest for travel this year is coming from South-east Asia, for groups of up to 100 pax, while South Korean clients are mainly seeking snow and onsen travel from early 2023.

“We can feel their eagerness to travel and to reward their stakeholders with a long-expected Hokkaido trip as soon as possible,” said Yumeki Kaneuchi of the incentive and corporate events team at SCB.

In addition to a day of snow sports, planners are also keen on new experiences, such as Hokkaido’s ice hotel and ice carousel. Requests for activities that incorporate “refreshment and wellness” are also on the rise, added Kaneuchi.

Marico Ogi, MICE director of the SCB, said the organisation is noticing a shift in requests for sustainability, wellness, personalisation, and space-conscious content, prompting staff to respond with programmes that are more immersive and catered for smaller groups.

Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau (FCVB) is also seeing an uptick in confirmations, particularly from South Korea and Indonesia, following a rapid rise in enquiries since June.

“While we are still far off the pre-Covid number and size of groups, we are encouraged to see huge interest in Japan and Fukuoka as international incentive travel destinations,” Sayaka Kashiwabara, assistant manager MICE sales at FCVB told the Daily.

Etsuko Kawasaki, executive director of the Japan Convention Bureau, said she expects high demand for incentive trips to Japan because such activities are a great motivator for employees and “cannot be replaced by other things such as gifts or online events”.

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