Niseko: not just a winter destination

Not content with being seen as a winter destination, Niseko and its surrounds aspire to boost summer visitor numbers.

Sunflower field in Niseko Hokkaido, Japan

The traditional winter destination of Niseko and its surrounds are working to draw more tourist footfalls during other quieter seasons, and there will be a higher chance of success should the government help with destination awareness and easier access.

Summer is a time for flowers to bloom; sunflower field in Niseko

Acme Wu, marketing manager of Niseko Promotion Board, said: “We have been generating marketing collaterals such as videos, and have been organising more events in the summer, such as the Niseko Classic bicycle race, and the music and food festival Niko Niko Niseko Village Festival.”

In addition, Wu pointed out that “accommodation is cheaper, and is normally half (the price) of winter”.

But Chihiro Tamao, Hilton Niseko Village’s director of sales, pointed out that these summer activities are “not well introduced to the market, and information is limited”.

In order to lure these visitors out to Niseko, Tamao shared that the property does sales calls and participates in tradeshows, as well as works closely with travel agencies and land operators – based in Tokyo and Niseko – who have partners in other countries.

Thirty minutes away from Niseko is The Westin Rusutsu Resort, which shares in the summer-season woes.

Yuta Yoshio, the hotel’s director of sales, told TTG Asia: “From mid-December to the beginning of April, occupancy is more than 90 per cent. But from end-April to mid-July, it’s only 50 per cent. Then it’s the school holidays, so occupancy goes back up to 90 per cent. But from mid August to beginning of November, it’s back to 50 per cent.”

Moreover, he opined that Hokkaido is well-known for winter, but foreigners don’t think of it as a destination to see cherry blossoms – for example – and they head to Tokyo instead.

“Business is good during winter, but during the green season it is very challenging. There are actually many outdoor activities that can be done,” said Yoshio.

Tamao added: “I think Hokkiado as a destination is already well-known internationally. But flight connectivity to Chitose airport is a challenge; travellers would prefer not to transit in Osaka or Tokyo (if they are heading directly to Hokkaido).”

“Airports in smaller cities – such as Hakodate in the south, or Asahikawa in the centre, or a smaller airport in Eastern Hokkaido – should be opened up to receive more international or chartered flights. By doing so, travellers will be able to move within Hokkiado and spread demand, instead of having to leave and depart from Chitose,” she pointed out.

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