Agency will select areas outside major cities to promote to big-spending travelers, according to report.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Japan had been enjoying year after year of record-breaking inbound foreign tourist numbers. That sustained surge ran into a wall as the country enacted some of the world’s strictest border controls, essentially prohibiting all foreign leisure travelers from entering the country until two months ago.

Those protocols are gradually being relaxed, though, and the announcement last week that travelers coming to Japan will no longer be required to take pre-departure COVID tests is being seen as another positive development by the tourism industry. Now national broadcaster NHK reports that the Japan Tourism Agency, part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, will be launching a new program specifically aimed at attracting wealthy foreign tourists and encouraging them to visit parts of Japan they’ve previously overlooked.

NHK references statistics showing that a certain subset of foreign travelers to Japan spend over one million yen (US$7,400) on their trip, insinuating that demographic as the likely target of the project. According to the report, though, those travelers spend the majority of their trip in large cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, and so the Japan Tourism Agency will be selecting 10 other sightseeing areas of Japan to promote to wealthy foreign travelers in an effort to revitalize those local economies, with the agency providing assistance in marketing, branding, and development of tourism/hospitality provider staff that can accommodate said tourists. The project will also involve the Japan National Tourism Organization, a sub-agency of the Japan Tourism Agency, which would be involved in promoting the designated regions to overseas travel providers that handle travel to Japan.

Focusing on wealthy inbound tourists could be a timely strategy, Currently, the only way for foreign tourists to enter Japan is as part of a guided tour, but the extra costs associated with guided tours make them comparatively less popular with travelers on a tight budget. So if the most budget-conscious travelers are currently unable to get into Japan, there’s some logic in shifting promotional focus to travelers who do have extra cash to spend on their trip.

On the other hand, Japan owes a lot of its rapid pre-pandemic increases in inbound foreign tourist numbers to younger travelers, many of whom aren’t rich. A lot of the experiences they were craving, such as eating at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, going to an anime fan event, or seeing the deer at Nara Park, aren’t particularly expensive outings, but less-wealthy travelers have still collectively contributed a lot to the Japanese economy.

That said, an increase in promotional efforts aimed at one demographic doesn’t necessarily mean less promotion for other demographics, so hopefully the Japan Tourism Agency won’t forget about travelers who aren’t going to be spending a million yen on their trip.

Source: NHK News Web
Top image: Pakutaso
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