Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) yesterday signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to further promote travel and tourism to Japan from five key markets in the region – Singapore, Australia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
As part of the partnership, JNTO and SIA will roll out joint promotional activities such as fam trips and marketing activities. The two-year agreement has been pegged at ¥48 million (US$445,536) for the first year, with the second year of funding currently undecided.
This collaboration also marks the first time JNTO is partnering with an airline, coming at a time as Japan works towards its goal of 40 million inbound visitors by 2020.
“Inbound passenger traffic from South-east Asia and the neighbouring region have been growing steadily, and these regions are some of the most important markets for Japan. Through this partnership with SIA, we hope to boost the number of visitors to Japan not only from Singapore but from all over South-east Asia and the other regions including those who transit in Singapore,” said JNTO executive vice president Akira Ninagawa.
The number of tourists to Japan from Singapore increased 2.3 times over the past five years. In 2018 alone, traveller numbers from Singapore climbed 8.2% year- on-year to 437,280. Similarly, there was a 14.7% year-on-year jump in tourists from India to Japan, 11.6% from Australia, 6.5% from Malaysia and 12.7% from Indonesia.
SIA senior vice president sales & marketing, Campbell Wilson, elaborated: “This part of the world may not be our largest contributing market for Japan tourism… but this agreement was initiated by SIA because we felt that there was more opportunity. Looking at the key markets covered by this MoC, all of them have grown by double-digit rates so far this year.”
He further revealed that more than 70 per cent of Singaporeans have already been to Japan more than once, a figure significantly higher than other markets covered under the MoC. For instance, 56 per cent of Indians have only travelled once to Japan; while 48 per cent of Indonesians and 45 per cent of Australians have never been to Japan, so there’s “definitely plenty of opportunities”.
But as the Japanese government charges towards its target of 40 million inbound tourist arrivals by 2020, wouldn’t overtourism become a greater challenge for already-popular destinations such as Kyoto, asked TTG Asia.
Ninagawa remarked: “Actually, (the number of) tourists who head to the northern part of Kyoto, are not that great yet. There are also a lot of hidden places there, which is what we’re trying to promote. We’re also trying to get temples to open for longer hours to the public, so that they can be visited at different times in the day (to spread out the visitor traffic).”
To help combat overtourism in popular locations, Ninagawa revealed that a brand-new travel brochure, 100 Experiences in Japan, was launched last month to feature lesser-known experiences, such as training with a mountain mystic in Yamagata Prefecture and spending a night in a funaya boathouse in Gifu Prefecture.
When asked if SIA is planning to fly to more Japanese cities, especially to lesser-known areas to help disperse tourism, Campbell told TTG Asia: “We currently fly to seven cities in Japan (across the SIA group). For the moment we feel like we’ve geographically covered north to south, so there are no immediate plans to add new cities.”
Instead, SIA will be adding flights, such as a third daily flight to Osaka and a fourth daily flight to Tokyo Haneda; as well as upgrading the sizes of its aircraft to Nagoya and Fukuoka; so there’s “plenty of additional capacity”.
“Given Japan’s fantastic land transport network, any of those gateways can get you to anywhere in Japan pretty easily,” Campbell noted.