Japanese prefectures pivot away from Chinese market

As China continues with its zero-Covid policy, Japanese prefectures that once relied on Chinese tourists are turning their attention to other international markets for recovery.

Of the 31.9 million tourists who visited Japan in 2019, about one third were from China, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, making Japan the most visited overseas destination by Chinese visitors that year. Chinese tourists also punched above their weight in spending, generating 44 per cent of total consumption by inbound tourists in 2019.

The hospitality sector in Okinawa Prefecture is currently targeting travellers from East Asia; Miyakojima Island in Okinawa Prefecture pictured

Aside from Tokyo and Osaka, Shizuoka, Okinawa, Hokkaido, Aichi and Fukuoka were among the prefectures that benefitted the most from Chinese visitors in 2019. Due to China’s ongoing border restrictions, however, many regions are pivoting their efforts towards the rest of Asia and Europe.

Central Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, where 56 per cent of all inbound tourists were from China pre-pandemic, has launched a new website: Amazing Aichi. Introducing the area as a place renowned for samurai history, manufacturing and nature, the new initiative is supported in Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese and French – as well as English and Chinese – in an effort to lure new markets.

In Okinawa Prefecture, the hospitality sector is eyeing East Asia, at least in the short term.

“Before Covid, most direct flight traffic to Okinawa came from China,” Makoto Suzuki, global sales and marketing at Kariyushi Hotels Group, Okinawa, told TTG Asia.

Now, with the continuation of China’s zero-Covid policy, “the most speedy recovery is expected to be from Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong,” he said.

Hong Kong Airlines resumed direct flights to Naha International Airport, Okinawa, on November 2, while Korean Airlines will resume flights from Incheon International Airport, Seoul, to Naha on December 1.

Meanwhile, in Shizuoka Prefecture, where 73 per cent of all international tourists in 2019 arrived from China, efforts are ongoing to attract the luxury market, including in Europe.

Accommodations opened in recent months include Loquat Villa Suguro, which was converted from a 100-year-old traditional property, and two new glamping sites in the foothills of Mount Fuji: Gran Regalo Asagiri and Moss Jurigi.

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