Japan levels up on adventure activities to entice travellers

Japan’s nascent adventure tourism industry is growing at speed, aided by public and private investment, including by domestic and overseas tour companies.

Adventure travel (typically defined as involving at least one of the components of physical activity, a connection to nature and a cultural experience) is a key pillar in the government’s 2023–2026 tourism plan to increase regional tourism and visitor consumption.

Tourists can experience rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking and fishing at the countryside, such as Akigawa Valley in Tokyo, pictured

The Japan National Tourism Organization is therefore promoting adventure travel in a bid to attract visitors to rural areas where adventure activities, which are typically more costly than sightseeing, tend to take place.

“Adventure travellers enjoy interacting with cultures that are particular to each destination, so each region of Japan offers something of interest,” said a representative of JTB Corporation.

Stakeholders in Osaka and Tokyo, which were visited by 80 per cent of all tourists pre-pandemic, are hopeful they can entice visitors into the nearby countryside.

Osaka Convention & Visitors Bureau (OCVB) has launched Adventure Osaka, a website introducing routes for hiking, e-biking and kayaking, as well as places to experience local culture.

“Osaka is about so much more than the city; we are a prefecture of diverse adventures,” Shirley Zhang of the OCVB’s PR department told TTG Asia.

Tatsuya Morooka, senior manager of Fourth Wellness, which organises activities in the capital’s Akigawa Valley, said: “We want to show visitors another side of Tokyo, where they can experience rafting, SUP (stand-up paddle boarding), hiking and fishing.”

Overseas companies are also increasing their footprint in Japan.

“We’re experiencing so much pent-up demand,” said Fiona Marshall, product director of UK-based Macs Adventure, whose Japan self-guided walking tours are booked throughout the remainder of 2023. “We’re very interested in expanding to offer more tours across Japan.”

Growth in the industry is also stimulating domestic demand and is even anticipated to inspire more Japanese travellers to try adventure activities overseas.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming more of the Japan market, as direct flights have resumed between Narita and Fiji,” said Brent Hill, CEO at Tourism Fiji, adding that the country is popular for snorkelling and diving.

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