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Travel News Japan tourism: directing inbounds beyond large cities and famous places

thomas

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In response to the increasing influx of international visitors attracted by Japan's depreciating currency, the tourism industry is shifting its focus towards promoting lesser-known locales beyond the bustling metropolises of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto .

JTB, one of the largest Japanese travel agencies, has been at the forefront of this initiative, broadening its inbound travel itineraries to include off-the-beaten-path destinations like Kanazawa since Japan's borders reopened in 2022. Recently, JTB introduced new travel routes to the northern regions of Tohoku and Hokkaido . Shin Fujimoto, who leads JTB's Japan inbound business co-creation division, emphasized the company's commitment to sustainable tourism and regional diversification. JTB is capitalizing on culinary attractions to rejuvenate less frequented areas, collaborating with the startup Tablecross to offer exclusive dining experiences at approximately 30,000 JPY per guest.

These endeavours align with Japan's strategic plan to decentralize tourism from the capital and enhance visitor expenditure, as stipulated in the Tourism Nation Promotion Basic Plan adopted the previous year. Fujimoto anticipates a gradual increase in customer interest in these regional tours, starting from the upcoming autumn or the following year, allowing time for international travellers to arrange their visits.


Some suburban sites in Japan are already increasingly popular. A Thai woman visiting Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture, about two hours from Tokyo, said: "The park is famous on Thai social media. I want to take pictures when there are no passersby." During the 10 days of the so-called Golden Week holidays, which this year began in April and ran into this month, an average of 32,000 people visited the park each day, up nearly 40% from 2023.


Airbnb, the renowned accommodation service provider, is expanding its presence in Japan's rural areas. Jay Carney, the company's chief of global policy and communications, has highlighted Japan as a top destination within the Asia Pacific region. Airbnb has collaborated with 14 local governments and institutions across Japan to align with local regulations and foster community relations, including a recent partnership with Ehime prefecture in the southwest as of April. The platform saw a 10% increase in visits to 1,200 Japanese municipalities by both domestic and international travellers in 2023.


Airbnb's partner Ryohin Keikaku sees growth potential in renovated accommodation, with its "Muji Base" initiative, launched last year. The retailer renovated a 100-year-old traditional Japanese house in Kamogawa, Chiba prefecture, and opened it as an accommodation facility last August. Located east of Tokyo, it is "almost fully booked for the next three to four months," Executive Officer Hidetomo Nagata told reporters in April. The rates start at 55,000 JPY for two people for two nights. Roughly 30% of the guests are from overseas, according to the company.


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Japanese authorities have been having a hard time managing the influx of so many foreign tourists, especially since Chinese tourists I've been coming in millions in recent years. When I visited the most famous temples of Kyoto some 20 years ago there was hardly any tourist. The last time I was there 6 months ago we had to skip many attractions because they were too crowded.

According to the JNTO's statistics they were 6 million tourists in Japan in 2004, 10 million in 2013, 20 million in 2015, and over 31 million in 2018 and 2019 before COVID hit. 2024 looks set to be back to that level again.

That's a huge increase over the last 10 years, but it's still not that much compared to countries like France or Spain, which welcomed 100 million and 85 million tourists last year respectively. France has half the population of Japan while Spain has a third of it. Yet there isn't any similar problem with overcrowding and locals complaining about tourists. That's probably because tourists are better spread out around these countries. But Paris alone received 25 million tourists per year almost as much as the whole of Japan and Parisians don't complain about it.

I've seen videos on YouTube about common complains about tourists in Japan and especially Chinese tourists. One of the most common problems is the excessive amount of rubbish. But the problem actually comes from the Japanese authorities who do not provide enough rubbish bins in tourist spots. Rubbish bins in Kyoto are always overflowing. Tourists often resort to throwing their rubbish in convenience stores, and combini located near major tourist attractions are now refusing people coming in to throw their rubbish.

In the 1990s I used to play a video game called Theme Park in which you had to manage an amusement park and notably provide enough rubbish bins and toilets for visitors otherwise they would complain, get angry and throw their rubbish everywhere on the ground. It looks like the Japanese government could learn a lot from this game. You cannot just multiply the number of foreign tourists by five in 20 years and not adapt the facilities accordingly.

I would definitely encourage foreign tourists to visit smaller cities and towns across Japan and not just concentrate on Tokyo and Kyoto. It's not just to relieve the pressure on big cities (especially Kyoto), but because it's well worth it. Unfortunately the decision of Japan Railways to almost double the price of the JR pass last October has had the opposite effect. Much less people are travelling beyond the Kanto and Kansai as it has become too expensive.
 
In response to the increasing influx of international visitors attracted by Japan's depreciating currency, the tourism industry is shifting its focus towards promoting lesser-known locales beyond the bustling metropolises of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

JTB, one of the largest Japanese travel agencies, has been at the forefront of this initiative, broadening its inbound travel itineraries to include off-the-beaten-path destinations like Kanazawa since Japan's borders reopened in 2022. Recently, JTB introduced new travel routes to the northern regions of Tohoku and Hokkaido. Shin Fujimoto, who leads JTB's Japan inbound business co-creation division, emphasized the company's commitment to sustainable tourism and regional diversification. JTB is capitalizing on culinary attractions to rejuvenate less frequented areas, collaborating with the startup Tablecross to offer exclusive dining experiences at approximately 30,000 JPY per guest.

These endeavours align with Japan's strategic plan to decentralize tourism from the capital and enhance visitor expenditure, as stipulated in the Tourism Nation Promotion Basic Plan adopted the previous year. Fujimoto anticipates a gradual increase in customer interest in these regional tours, starting from the upcoming autumn or the following year, allowing time for international travellers to arrange their visits.





Airbnb, the renowned accommodation service provider, is expanding its presence in Japan's rural areas. Jay Carney, the company's chief of global policy and communications, has highlighted Japan as a top destination within the Asia Pacific region. Airbnb has collaborated with 14 local governments and institutions across Japan to align with local regulations and foster community relations, including a recent partnership with Ehime prefecture in the southwest as of April. The platform saw a 10% increase in visits to 1,200 Japanese municipalities by both domestic and international travellers in 2023.





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And yet when people flock to a lesser known site such as a convenience store they try to stymie them. The dentist should have built a balcony on their roof, hired an ojiisan for security/traffic management and charged admission. 😄
 
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