Japan takes farm stay route to enliven rural areas, boost inbound tourism

Japan is aiming for international tourists to spend 700,000 guest nights on farm stays annually by 2025 as part of efforts to revitalise rural areas, which make up 65 per cent of the country’s land mass.

The Farm Stay Promotion Plan launched by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plans to attract first-time travellers, encourage longer stays and welcome back repeat travellers in a bid to improve Japan’s inbound tourism strategy in the longer term.

Japan aims to promote farm stays by revitalising rural areas to attract more local and international visitors; Shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine) in Tsuruoka, pictured

The plan stated that the “attraction of inbound and other diverse and highly motivated travellers to rural areas has the potential to resolve over-tourism in some popular tourism destinations” and that the initiative can also “meet the growing global interest in sustainable tourism and demand for nature and activities, which will also contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.

An uptick in overnight stays is also expected to support improved employment opportunities and income security in the regions, including through accommodation, F&B and experience provision, according to the ministry.

In 2023 work will begin with overseas travel agents to target FITs in Europe, the US, Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong for rural stays via greater promotion and dissemination of information online. Efforts will also be taken to offer more online reservation services and multilingual support.

Meanwhile, local tourism stakeholders are being encouraged to incorporate morning and evening experiences, such as museum visits or food and drink tastings, into stays to add value for visitors.

Locations certified by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries under the brand Savor Japan – such as Tsuruoka (a UNESCO City of Gastronomy) in Tohoku’s Yamagata Prefecture and Nishi Awa on Shikoku’s Tokushima Prefecture – will also see greater promotion.

The new plan is expected to complement activities to stimulate greater use by inbound tourists of long trails and cycle paths, which pass through rural areas, and roadside stations.

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