Now midway into snow season, Japan’s tourism professionals are confident of seeing full recovery of the winter season based on pent-up demand.
This year marks the first time since the pandemic that winter sports operators have enjoyed a full lead up to the snow season, which runs from mid-December to early April. Additionally, 2.73 million international travellers arrived in Japan in December 2023, an 8.2 per cent increase on December 2019, resulting in renewed optimism.
“Japan’s borders reopened six weeks before the 2022-23 ski season was due to start. With consumer confidence dented and so little time to book, the 2022-23 season recovery was modest,” Lindsay Colbert, managing director of Hokkaido-based travel agent Japan Ski Experience, told TTG Asia. “Demand which had been building up since 2020 was unleashed by the time bookings opened for the 2023-24 season, and bookings quickly exceeded pre-pandemic levels.”
William Ross, creative director of Dancing Snow, which offers backcountry tours, snowshoeing and ski hiking in Niigata Prefecture, is also seeing an uptick in international demand. Bookings are coming from both long-established country markets such as Australia, and newer country markets including the US, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, Sweden and the UK, he told TTG Asia.
Colbert also reports a “noticeable change” in the number of travellers from the US, while Nagano Prefecture, another of the country’s top winter sports destinations, is welcoming more visitors from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to independent tour guide Peter Carnell.
With new markets and strong rebound, agents and operators are eyeing opportunities for growth.
“Many post-pandemic travellers to Japan ski resorts are looking for new and exciting experiences, as evidenced by increasing numbers of first-time visitors, more non-skiers or snowboarders in resort and an increase in demand for more off-the-beaten-track destinations,” said Colbert.
“Both travellers and tour operators are looking for new destinations and activities” to help alleviate overtourism, added Carnell.