Hokkaido was struck by two earthquakes in recent months, but tourism business has been quick to rebound particularly in the high-end sector, according to some of Japan’s luxury travel players.
A deadly 6.6-magnitude quake rocked the south of Hokkaido on September 6, damaging public infrastructure and triggering widespread power outages. Many evacuees are still living in temporary accommodation at press time.
To soften the impact of the September tragedy on tourism, the Japanese government in October rolled out discounts for holidaymakers.
While the government subsidies were meant to attract bargain-seeking holidaymakers, it was the less price-sensitive high-end travel segment that showed quicker recovery, according to Masami Kono, CEO of Cril Privee, which provides customised travel services.
Speaking to TTG Asia on the sidelines of the Further East luxury travel show in Bali, he said his clients were choosing to proceed with their holiday plans as early as a few days following the disaster, soon after power returned to the prefecture.
In the mass market segment, group tours that included Hokkaido were delayed for weeks, he claimed. “Travel agencies have greater liability considerations, and hence had to allow for a wider window (for the risks to settle).”
High-end travellers, in contrast, were better able to make up their own mind about visiting the destination. “Many of our clients draw from (various) sources of information that led them to decide that the destination was safe to visit,” he shared.
Demand for Hokkaido is already back to the usual level for Cril Privee, driven by a recent surge in interest for Niseko from markets such as mainland China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, Kono said.
Similarly, Hiroshi Kuchiki, founder and CEO of Magella Resorts & Trust, was positive that business recovery is in motion at the Japanese luxury travel company.
Unsurprisingly for him, the government’s discount initiative did little to entice high-end travellers to visit Hokkaido. Rather than seek to benefit from the tragedy, many in this segment tend more to be motivated by how they can help the disaster-struck destinations, he explained.
A more effective scheme to hasten recovery, he suggested, would be for a portion of what tourists pay to go towards quake recovery.
Meanwhile, Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel saw only two cancellations in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, said Yuki Homma, director, inbound department executive manager, while disclaiming that this was off the small base number the specialist agency handles.
Homma shared that the agency, which hails most of its business from Asia, has recently observed growth in clients from Europe and the US seeking more active holidays in Hokkaido.