After nearly three years in Singapore as JTB’s president & CEO, Asia Pacific, Shinya Billy Kurosawa is returning to Japan to head the corporation’s Global Marketing & Travel (GMT) as its president & CEO starting January 2.
“The type of business I’ll be doing in GMT will be a bit different. We will be more involved in practical inbound tourist and MICE business strategies,” Kurosawa told TTG Asia in an exclusive interview.
He shared that his priority upon returning to Japan will be to drum up branding efforts leading up to Japan’s major upcoming sporting events, namely the Rugby World Cup 2019, the 2020 Olympic Games and the World Masters Games 2021.
“We are at what I’ve called the ‘golden era of sports tourism’. What we’ve been doing in APAC is building up our branding as a sports specialist. Starting next year, JTB will sponsor and host fun run events. It looks like APAC will have lots of demand for the sporting events, so we will use our brand to go into that market (segment) and maybe include something related to Japan,” described Kurosawa.
Japan’s inbound business has been booming, he said. Last year, the country received 28.6 million international visitors. JTB has forecasted that 2018 will register some 31.6 million arrivals, and 35.5 million next year. The Japanese government targets 40 million inbound travellers by 2020.
But with such thriving numbers, another challenge looms ahead for inbound companies like GMT. Overtourism is a rising concern in Japan, with cities like Kyoto making headlines due to over-crowding.
Kurosawa said: “Until five or six years ago, most tourists to Kyoto were domestic travellers within Japan and visitors from Europe and US – not many from Asia-Pacific. But nowadays, there are so many people.
“What the municipal governments in Japan have been doing is try to promote each of the prefectures in Japan. We’ve been working for over three to four years to diversify the areas that tourists can go. Unfortunately, there are very famous areas that people will still want to go to. What we can do is (show them that) Japan has so many places to see and promote by area and season.
“Repeat tourists who have already gone to Hokkaido and the Golden Route – Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka – know that Japan is easy to travel in. They buy JR passes and book their (accommodations) online. There is a tendency now for tourists to spread out over Japan by themselves.”