national

Japan eyes shift to 'quality' experiences as inbound tourism recovers

50 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© KYODO

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

50 Comments
Login to comment

It also wants to encourage foreign visitors to spend more time in the countryside on trips. They spent only a night or so on average in 2019.

Quality Time? Most of tourist only have time around one week, they need to choose between existing Japan's famous tourist site.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1006205/japan-inbound-tourism-average-length-commercial-accommodation-stay/

Why would they spend their time and money traveling in remote and rural area?

The government has set a target for spending per visitor of 200,000 yen in 2025, up from the pre-pandemic figure of about 160,000 yen.

Where tourist should get that amount of money?

https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/09/15/risk-of-global-recession-in-2023-rises-amid-simultaneous-rate-hikes

-7 ( +10 / -17 )

Japan Rail pass price increasing by 77% says it all

13 ( +25 / -12 )

Great for countryside. But in modern times, foreigners have western style toilets and beds with mattresses. (My dog sleeps on the floor)

on an un-pessimistic note, Japanese countryside is absolutely amazing, food is great, traditional architecture is abound, air is clean and people are friendly and it is very safe.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

Foreign tourists, especially from China, were known for their shopping sprees before the pandemic, splurging on everything from home appliances to cosmetics. Even if Chinese tourists do return to Japan in large numbers, a repeat of such spending may be too much to ask, industry watchers say.

I can't vouch for accuracy, but this year whilst on a Hokkaido gondola, a local told our group the gondola is owned by a Chinese company, the ski resort, the hotels also, and apparently they pick the Chinese tourists up from the airport on their own bus, bus them to the hotel, eat in the hotel, ski in their resort, then bus them out straight to the airport, and no money is ever spent in the town.

We used the gondola to get to the back country so can't say how true the story is or whether there's that many Chinese tourists at the resort. But if true, then I think the government could be in for a surprise in terms of the tourist yen.

15 ( +19 / -4 )

I find it rather sad when visitors are seen as only a yen-amounts.

9 ( +22 / -13 )

So they plan to increase price of JR pass by over 70% then expect tourists to buy it and still make side trips away from Kyoto (on the pass you were encouraged to do that since it was so cheap).

Now all tourists will do is skip the pass (especially since most go for the 7 day one) and just go between a Tokyo /Kyoto for 26,000 yen or so return and spend more time in Kyoto than they would normally do. Result: Kyoto is gonna just be MORE crowded.

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Increasing spending and rural travel requires more AirBnB rather than restricting it, and cheaper rail fares, not more expensive passes. AirBnB do events in multiple languages from a central website. Doing this from ground zero domestically is going to be much tougher. Higher pass costs may reduce movement around Japan, so the Chinese, for whom Kyoto is the top destination, may stay there for longer. Other foreigners may stay in Tokyo more.

You can get more Yen off Westerners, but the Northern air route from Europe, over Russia, is closed to some airlines now, adding hours to the journey and knocking Japan down the league table a few places. Thank Moscow for the considerable revenue that is taking away from you.

It is difficult to sell the countryside as most people have some that is closer to home and cheaper to spend time in. It is also tougher for tourists to access. Urban Japan has the exotic, tourist-friendly appeal that pulls in the punters. Outside urban areas, multilingualism rapidly drops off a cliff and rail services can only take you so far. Language skills will be a big problem in delivering 'events' in Japan.

Low inflation and low interest rates promoted discretionary spending, so don't expect miracles. Political policies have broken the global economy over the last few years and many people are already in 'war mode', expecting to be poorer, unable to trade across borders, and fearing global conflict.

Many nations opened earlier and most are prioritising tourism to deal with the economic hit. Nations like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Turkey are bigger competitors than they were. The reboot of tourism has given such nations a real boost against more established destinations. G7 nations took the opportunity to send migrant workers home and make it difficult for them to return, and they are now suffering serious staff shortages in key areas, many of which affect the tourist sector. Most G7 nations are also shutting tourists out of AirBnB-style rentals, which is the primary growth sector and a catalyst for opening up new countries and regions. Even if it bucks the G7 trend and promotes tourism again, Japan may find the post-Covid tourism market to be much tougher than it was pre-. The playing field is a lot more even now.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

We certainly do not need any more tourists in Kyoto. It's horrible here right now. Trying to get to work on public transport, particularly the bus and JR, is nay on impossible because of tourists and their hudge collections of bags. The roads are crammed with tour buses and minivans. The other day I thought I would take a quiet drive in the country only to spend an hour stuck behind 3 microbuses who thought they'd take a narrow mountain route...

11 ( +13 / -2 )

@asiaman7, agreed. This part is particularly odious:

The government has set a target for spending per visitor of 200,000 yen in 2025, up from the pre-pandemic figure of about 160,000 yen.

...what does this "target" even mean? Is this a roundabout way of ordering businesses or tourist attractions to raise their prices? Tourists will spend what they want to spend; stop seeing them as objects to be squeezed.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Labor shortages are happening in many restaurants, hotels and leisure channels. They want to simplify the operation processes. On the other hand, tourists want to enjoy their stay without crowd. Discovering potential sightseeing places may be a solution for these both needs.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

From the article:

"There is great potential for an increase in inbound demand…

When you compare to zero, there is always great potential for increase.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

It also wants to encourage foreign visitors to spend more time in the countryside on trips.

How? By NOT promoting other areas in Japan.

These jokers constantly promote Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Okinawa, and…….

No one is going to Shikoku at any time.

Almost no one outside of Japan has heard about Kagoshima food or Oita on onsens.

You’ll be lucky if someone gets lost and ends up in Tottori or Akita.

And I’m sure the absurdly raised prices on the rail passes won’t help with that either.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The government has set a target for spending per visitor of 200,000 yen in 2025, up from the pre-pandemic figure of about 160,000 yen.

No problem there. Inflation has already made it more expensive.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Narita (and maybe other Japanese airports) first need to sort out the immigration inspection counters. There's no reason (other than discrimination) to allow Japanese citizens to basically walk right through while forcing foreigners from the same flight to stand in line for hours.

Some foreigners are reporting being held up for 4 hours. Typically it's over an hour or so.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

Labor shortages are particularly acute in the services sector, which was slow to recover from the COVID-19 shock.

Well, now that the tourism industry is steadily rising again, maybe give BETTER pay to workers?

Then you’ll in turn get more people wanting to work in services?

its not brain surgery, there is No “labor shortage,” just very cheap employers and CEOs.

but then again, you do need common sense and logic to understand that, so……

5 ( +11 / -6 )

Good news for everyone, Congratulations Japan, Hurry up and open them borders so tourists can visit at ease while the yen is at it's lowest levels in years, I am beginning to se many from Europe, the U.S. China , and more so nice to see this after 3 years from hell.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

The only reason for a labor shortage is salary is too low, not stable, and has limited upside. Raise salaries and give people opportunities- they will flock to jobs and drive a wonderful service culture to boost quality tourist

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Asiaman7Today  07:30 am JST

I find it rather sad when visitors are seen as only a yen-amounts.

I fully agree with you there! Have an upvote!

0 ( +6 / -6 )

I hope the increased revenue will be shared with the foreign staff at the hotels. In recent trips we have met Taiwanese, Indonesians and Nepali working in hotels in Hokkaido, Iwate and Toyama.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If the total number of foreign visitors to Japan tops 31.88 million, the highest-ever recorded in 2019, and the spending target for 200,000 yen per person is achieved, this will boost Japan's real gross domestic product by 1.2 percent a year, according to Mizuho.

let's do the math here :

32,000,000 (rounded number) x 200,000 = 6,400,000,000,000

So basically raise the prices for the foreigners to travel and see places in Japan and have them make up the lost money from the pandemic but constantly remind them that they are nothing to us but a means to balance out budget! Am I in the ball park range to assume that here?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

japan created inflation artificially to force tourist to spend more.

indeed, Kishida need money to buy offensive weapon from US

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Sh1mon M4sadaToday  07:17 am JST

Foreign tourists, especially from China, were known for their shopping sprees before the pandemic, splurging on everything from home appliances to cosmetics. Even if Chinese tourists do return to Japan in large numbers, a repeat of such spending may be too much to ask, industry watchers say.

I can't vouch for accuracy, but this year whilst on a Hokkaido gondola, a local told our group the gondola is owned by a Chinese company, the ski resort, the hotels also, and apparently they pick the Chinese tourists up from the airport on their own bus, bus them to the hotel, eat in the hotel, ski in their resort, then bus them out straight to the airport, and no money is ever spent in the town.

We used the gondola to get to the back country so can't say how true the story is or whether there's that many Chinese tourists at the resort. But if true, then I think the government could be in for a surprise in terms of the tourist yen.

Wouldn't surprise me. Which resort is it?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Successful tourism is probably more about exceeding expectations. Of course, quality and service are already high in Japan and well known so nobody comes or searches for it. And if someone comes for luxury, well that’s also available, but maybe often not so much typical Japanese, and of course also accessible anywhere else and looking like anywhere else. No, the trick in my opinion is , just to ask individually what the tourists want and then fit and exceed those expectations, which are mostly not so extraordinarily expensive, outstanding or luxurious. Some are already happy wearing a kimono fir the first time in life or watching a Ninja show, tea ceremony and such, others watching a nice landscape in the countryside with villages, old historic houses etc, not big cities like Tokyo because they are already coming from a big loud city in their country with the same shopping malls available, and again others just want to talk over an ice coffee with a cosplayer maid about their manga and electronics shopping they just made in Akihabara , hoping for tips on other items they can’t buy in their country as they are only available in Japanese ‘youth’ districts. The more tailored the experiences are, the more spending and the more repeaters.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

China's Fosun International Ltd. has purchased ski properties in the country, including a facility at Hokkaido's Kiroro resort that it converted into a Club Med. And Malaysia's YTL Corp., led by billionaire Francis Yeoh, owns Niseko Village adjacent to Annupuri.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think it's hilarious how much emphasis they're putting on getting foreigners to stay in the countryside.

Foreign tourists don't want to do that. Japanese tourists want to do that. I'll tell you what foreign tourists want to do: weeb out in Akihabara, get blasted and walk through neon-lit districts like Shibuya and Shinjuku, go night-clubbing in Roppongi, see cherry blossoms in Naka Meguro, and maybe go to Chinatown in Yokohama or Gion street in Kyoto. Those are the things I see tourists doing the most.

My friend visited in January and although I tried, I couldn't drag him out of the metropolis for the life of me.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

Wouldn't surprise me. Which resort is it?

It was the Kitanomine gondola, so I assume it was the Prince Furano resort?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

ExtraPat

Japan Rail pass price increasing by 77% says it all

That is a ridiculous increase in price. It will deter a lot of customers. Japan is much less appealing when the prices for things are increased so dramatically. It is happening in the US as well. Not good. My tin foil hat says it is deep state way to limit travel. ;P

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sh1mon M4sada Today  12:42 pm JST

It was the Kitanomine gondola, so I assume it was the Prince Furano resort?

Ah, OK. I thought Prince was mainly a Japanese-owned company, but I might be wrong.

I had a funny feeling you were referring to Kiroro. Yamaha built it and sold it a few years ago to what I think was a Chinese company, but as of the most recent season it seems to be a Club Med resort. Possibly the Chinese company unloaded it during the corona period.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Droll QuarryToday  12:12 pm JST

China's Fosun International Ltd. has purchased ski properties in the country, including a facility at Hokkaido's Kiroro resort that it converted into a Club Med.

Sorry, I didn't see your post. Does Fosun still own Kiroro, and Club Med just operates it for Fosun, then?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I normally visit friends, go shopping for souvenirs and hobby items, take loads of photos and generally wander about and see what new things I can find. I like to just go places at random.

Had a rail pass once, but it was a bit of a faff using it... never bought one for any holidays to Japan after that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As a travel professional working with Japan for 20+ years, I think the country seriously lacks vision, responsiveness and adaptability.

If you want to promote the countryside or off-the-beaten-path destinations, you MUST make them financially attractive. The price increase on the JR Pass is the last blow to local governments trying to put their towns on the map.

How about making the JR Pass(es) cheaper during those times of the year when the influx of foreign tourists drops? How about allowing the use of passes on non-consecutive days, thus encouraging people to spend more quality time in places rather than rush through them?

Hotels should discount their rates more during the low seasons, and increase them during the peak seasons, but - 不思議なことに - proper yield management does not seem to take root in Japan.

The other massive problem at the base of tourism influx distribution is the overwhelming amount of money Tokyo spends on its own promotion, polarizing the attention of mass travellers. If there is one place in Japan that needs no promotion at all, that's the capital. It is overexposed in the media, stupidly hyped and sanctified by nerdy otaku who can only see one side of Japan. If only these promotional funds could be redirected to promoting lesser-known areas with tangible discount programmes, we would see very different results and more organic growth.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Thunderbird2 and @Hanazuki-san, both of you present valid opinions. I have been seriously considering my 7th trip to Japan since my hands-on tsunami experience in March, 2011 (all previous six visits lasted 4-7 weeks) but I am now doubting that I will return. The JR pass price increase is one reason. My latest research with the hotels I've stayed at in the past is another - they've become considerably more expensive, even in towns and cities that are 'off the beaten track', where I prefer to roam about. I miss the friends I've made, and their families who have always treated me like a relative, but I am beginning to doubt that I will ever see them again. And for me, that's sad.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

fwiw, I like the Japan Rail Pass no longer being cheap. The reason is that most foreign tourists now have more leisure money than Japanese locals. In the past, perhaps it was good for the pass to be cheap, because the cost of living in Japan was more expensive than other first world countries and the tourists coming to Japan were less well-heeled adventerous ones. These people would then go home and give word of mouth promotion. Everyone now knows about Japan, so such promotion is no longer necessary. Japan is now firmly on the international tourism map. 30 million visitors a year is "on the tourism map".

A Big Mac in Japan is now 36% cheaper than the UK. In regular restaurants folks will be tipping 10% on top for food. People who can pay 50% more than Japanese to eat out and can pay currently huge airfares do not need cheap rail travel. Ones who claim it is a deal breaker are just moaners. I would rather such people went and did their moaning somewhere else.

Conversely, if Japan were to reduce the cost of rail travel for everyone, locals included, like Germany to reduce car use and promote general happiness, I would certainly support that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A reasonable Japanese ability is needed to detour off the well trodden tourist trap route of Tokyo - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Nagasaki.

The locals mostly cannot understand and do not want to learn even basic English.

Likely to be as successful as everything else the government 'eyes'.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The government probably thought increasing the rail pass price would be an easy way to get tourists to increase spending, but they will probably stop using trains and travel by LCC such as Jetstar or use long distance overnight buses instead. Jetstar flights within Japan can be incredibly cheap. An overnight bus can save a hotel bill, too.

What I believe they should do is encourage backpackers. Who opened up Phuket, Koh Samui, Kuta Beach in Bali, Boracay in the Philippines? Backpackers. Backpackers started them and many other resorts and then infrastructure in those areas improved and hotels followed. Backpackers may spend less per day but they spend more days in a country.

I read a post about Chinese in Hokkaido staying in a Chinese hotel and only spending money in Chinese-owned places. This sounds so familiar. Japanese used to travel on an overpriced Japanese airline to a Japanese owned hotel and be guided to Japanese-owned shops.

Backpackers may even find on remote islands some pleasant sandy beaches that have not yet been destroyed by tetrapods. They might even write to Lonely Planet about them. That is how new resorts start. They are not started by the plans of bureaucrats or salarymen.

As one would expect, the government will do everything wrong.

Has anyone else considered how ¥160,000 pre-covid compares with ¥200,000 now in terms of dollars or any other major currency? Does it actually represent more money in terms of the tourist's own currency?

Let's hope Kishida doesn't achieve the ¥200,000 target be further decreasing the value of the yen and making us poorer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They want to encourage more "quality" trips out into the countryside but yet they blasted the price of the Japan Rail Pass by 77%. Less money for spending in rural areas even if they go there.

AirBnB was forced to come up with certified verification #s by the Jgovt, which saw a loss of about half of the AirBnBs. Yet they now want more foreign travelers to go out into the sticks where many of these AirBnBs used to be. Now it's sometimes hard for me to find one during the busier periods, when this wasn't a problem before.

The title of this article should be, "We Need to Fleece the Tourists More While We Make It Less Convenient For Them."

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@gaijintraveller I'm sorry mate, but when the backpackers arrived in Pukhet or Boracay the places were not on the map (nor their respective countries, really). The main attractiveness for them was the destinations being extremely cheap, and unfortunately, the impact that backpacking tourism made was oftentimes a negative one.

Japan, instead, is already a well-established destination, and has a different problem: they need to redistribute the tourist influx, decongest places like Tokyo & Kyoto in favour of lesser-known areas, and increase the average spending. You can't achieve any of that by targeting backpackers.

If you haven't noticed -by the way- Japan is already replete with hostels, capsules, dorms and whatnot. But -being a first-world country- it will never be as cheap as the backpacking crowds like. A backpacker may end up on a remote island by chance, and discover the "pleasant sandy beach", but to stay 1 night on the island they will have to spend the equivalent of 1 week in Cambodia.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I was an international backpacker for more than 40 years with many happy memories. Visiting and staying with people I knew or had met was better than hotels and then they would visit me in London and stay in the spare room.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This summer I'll be using ItaliaRail and OBB for my quality experience, along with Emirates.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I was an international backpacker for more than 40 years with many happy memories. Visiting and staying with people I knew or had met was better than hotels and then they would visit me in London and stay in the spare room.

Typo--4

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Interesting. Japan should also pivot to prioritize quality of life for its residents.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Was never convinced by the JR pass - I bought it the first time, and just about broke even but it doesn't work on lots of local services so you need an IC card too unless you want to faff around with the ticket machines.

On a recent trip to visit family, I stopped off at a few towns on the way north and just bought tickets as I went; I don't think I would've saved any money with a JR pass but an IC card made life so much easier, travelling on local trains, buses, trams etc.

It was quite noticeable how much fewer Western tourists there were the further up the country you got, but that is understandable and I don't think is is ever going to change - getting to Japan is so expensive for a lot of the world that for most people it'll be a once in a lifetime holiday. You'd be mad not to see the famous sights in Tokyo and Kyoto in that case.

The nice thing about Japanese towns is they generally have something unique about them, and there are plenty of nice walks outside the towns, so you can easily stop off for a day somewhere if you're going past. I have also never had any real trouble with the language, place names are the same, and just pointing at what you want is always an option, people are generally happy to sell you stuff!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From the perspective of an EU/US traveller "only" leaving 200k (not to mention 160k) per trip and traveller seems rather low.

Ofc thats just a statistical average. I assume a lot of asians from close by countries lower that average with short or even weekend trips.

That said having just visited i would have thought that there were a lot of europeans. I noticed them a lot more than in years before covid.

Even ran in some chinese group crowds but otherwise there were a lot less indeed.

In regards to the JR pass. For many light users that will indeed mean no more pass. For heavy rail travellers with a full program (esp in green) it still will be worth it.

On my last trip even the new prices would not have amounted to half the non pass costs. But that was very rail heavy and certainly far above the norm.

For average travellers its a bit of a shame. Economically it might make sense for JR though.

It is however certainly contraproductive towards the idea to get more people into the countryside.

Because as a traveller the main means if transportation is the train, i guess.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, I want just to come back and I will be more than happy to go to the rural areas as trips there are usually a wonderful experience, very authentic, I can practice my Japanese, speak with elderly people and learn a lot. Also, sorry to say so and risking to sound racist, it is a way to avoid noisy and tiring crowds of tourists mostly from China... I made 12 trips to Japan between 2012 et 2020 (just before Covid) and spend in Japan around 1 year and half all together during those trips. Made 4 trips of 3 months and others shorter. All my holidays and all my savings but no regrets. :-) Went to 46 prefectures (including, naturally, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and Okinawa), just Tottori missing :-) Japan is to me the most wonderful travelling destination and nowhere people are as welcoming and lovely, maybe because I am so happy to be back each time. And yes, I am perfectly willing to spend 200 000 yen on a trip as usally I stay between 5 weeks and 2 months, take JR passes, eat Japanese food (maybe the most delicious in the world :-), pay for accomodations, attractions, onsen, kabuki etc. I will be very happy to support Japanese economy. I am just waiting until vaccination controls are over as affraid of too much bureaucracy. I took all 3 vaccinations and I am wearing a mask even in Europe, home in France and in the UK where I live because it is just more hygenic. I learned wearing a mask in Japan years before Covid so no problem. I miss Japan very much so the article seems like a good news. I hope to be back soon.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Kaede2017

Actually as the article mentions now still is a decent to avoid the big chinese crowds. Not that many there yet. Which i experienced myself 2 weeks ago.

As far as the Covid bureaucracy goes, that was very simple back in march. Literally just downloaded the app, registered there and uploaded vaccination certificate. Also could do the immigration and customs forms right in the app (which you usually got paper forms for on the plane, or had to do in airport).

The whole arrival process was in fact the fastest i ever had in japan. But a late arriving flight and not many people helped ;)

Actually finished visiting all 47 prefectures this trip.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

theonlyherb

Thank you for all those details. Visiting all 47 prefectures is my dream too. :-) I was a bit worried as couldn't find any information regarding the dates of vaccination. They stopped vaccinating younger people in the UK and my 3rd vaccination was from February 2022 which may be not recent enough to be let into Japan. So I decided to wait until Covid measures are lifted and will go next winter probably. Even if crowds are back it is usually quieter in December. Let's pray and hope the war will keep at bay...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites