Japan’s regions turn to Europe to boost fortunes

Travel agents and tourism officials in several Japanese regions have stepped up sales and marketing efforts in Europe, believing that travellers from longhaul markets will increase the destination’s tourism receipts and average length of stay.

“Westerners tend to take longer holidays, spend more money on vacation and stay at higher-priced hotels,” said Cameron Stadin, representative of Global Sales Explorer (GSE), based in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Senganen garden
Senganen Garden in Kagoshima Prefecture. Photo: Japan-guide.com

As a result, the inbound tour agency will launch seat-in-coach tours in 2017.

“The European FIT market is growing and our (tours) will suit them. They want independence but many places in Kyushu are difficult to access by public transport so this bus tour is (a convenient option),” he said.

A pilot is planned for April and GSE will first promote the tours to European expat residents across Japan this summer.

Stadin is banking on these customers’ social media posts to stimulate interest among Europeans outside of Japan.

Meanwhile, other attractions are focusing on marketing directly in Europe.

Alex Bradshaw, spokesperson for Sengan-en in Kagoshima city, shared that the historic garden had started pursuing the European market since last April. Sengan-en’s aim is to promote not only the attraction, but also Kagoshima as a destination, firstly to the FIT market and then to outbound agents.

“There is little knowledge of Kagoshima (in Europe),” he said. “By promoting Kagoshima’s heritage, we want to attract higher-spending Europeans who are interested in culture.”

In particular, Bradshaw is targeting the UK and France, where he visited in late February to promote the prefecture’s renowned kiriko glass.

Chisayo Watari, spokesperson of Hotel Shiroyama Kagoshima, shared that the luxury hotel will begin promotions in Europe after garnering a positive reception at ILTM Cannes 2016.

Kagoshima Visitors Bureau, meanwhile, has started to use the prefecture’s historical connection to the UK, which dates back to the 19th century, as a marketing tool to attract British travellers, revealed spokesperson Tomoko Takae.

Similarly, the prefectures of Tottori and Nagano are planning to win over European visitors by first courting Tokyo’s European residents.

Tottori is marketing itself through banners depicting the prefecture’s scenery and tasting sessions of locally distilled sake at international events, while Nagano officials are working with agents to develop short, high-end tours. Market research is still underway but these programmes may focus on wellness, drawing on the area’s hot springs, lush forests and waterfalls.

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