Japan walking tours step up in popularity

Discover Hiraizumi on foot during the Basho-themed self-guided tour

An alternative form of land tours – self-guided walking tours – is stepping into the spotlight among travellers in Japan.

Japan tourism representatives at the recent ITB Berlin told TTG Asia that there has been an uptick in new itineraries and operators offering such unique tours through both popular and lesser-known regions.

Discover Hiraizumi on foot during the Basho-themed self-guided tour

Inge Leibmann, German representative, Kyoto City Tourism Office, said: “Travellers don’t want anything cookie-cutter any more. It’s no longer just about shopping and taking pictures. There has to be some kind of unique experience.”

Popular itineraries can include a temple stay where visitors can meditate, explore mountain trails and visit hot springs. Walk Japan has also launched a self-guided Basho Wayfarer trail, which follows haiku poet Matsuo Basho’s famed classic poetic travelogue Oku-no-hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Deep North).

Leibmann shared that such tours are especially popular with Europeans and Americans, and that the office is working closely with Kyoto’s DMCs to reach out to these markets.

The rise of such self-guided tours presents a business opportunity that Japanese DMCs can take advantage of, observed Tetsuro Goda, consultancy & sales representative with Cox and Kings Japan.

Goda noted that while transportation and hotel booking is convenient in Japan, foreign visitors can benefit from “local knowledge” – that is, a reliance on DMCs – in finding ground tours and authentic local activities across different cities, from Kyoto to Kanazawa.

“It’s so easy to find hotels online, but it can be difficult to find local activities and land transfers in Japan (without local help). Moreover, DMCs can help visitors arrange transport to and identify their hotels. Tour planners can make it more convenient for travellers, and we get better rates from hotels too,” explained Goda.

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