Japan: Why Tourism and Meetings Business Is Rising in the Land of the Rising Sun

By Debi Lander

Ryoichi Matsuyama, President of the Japan National Tourism Organization

VISIT JAPAN Travel & MICE Mart is an inbound business talk session where overseas travel agencies offering trips to Japan and Japan-based tourism-related operators meet to create a variety of inbound businesses. The Tokyo International Exhibition Center hosted the annual event from Sept. 21-23, 2017.

Ryoichi Matsuyama, President of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), gave the opening remarks. He reported Japan’s visitors numbered 24 million in 2016, and brought $20 billion into the economy. According to Mamoru Kobori, Executive Vice President of the JNTO, the reasons for the increases in tourist arrivals are the following:

• Increasing interest in Japan as a travel destination

• Government initiatives, including: (a) exemption and relaxation of visa requirements (does not apply to the United States, where visas are not required for stays fewer than 90 days), (b) expansion of tax-free shopping and (c) continuous promotion by JNTO

• Growth of the middle and upper income classes in Asia

• A team effort at all levels (public and private) to increase foreign visitors

• The expansion of flight and cruise networks and facilities

The vast majority (84 percent) of tourists come from nearby North Asian countries, with the United States as the top non-Asian feeder market. Japan received approximately 1,250,000 visitors from the United States in 2016.

The JNTO has set a goal to attract 40 million visitors by 2020, which they anticipate will result in approximately $80 billion in spending, and 60 million visitors by 2030, spending about $150 billion. The 2020 Summer Olympics Games in Tokyo will help support these ambitious goals.



rising sun

Several hotel and infrastructural developments will make the city even more prepared to host the influx of visitors. New hotels include Marriott’s high-end Edition brand, which will open two locations in Tokyo ahead of the Olympics in the Toranomon and Ginza areas. The Toranomon property will feature 200 rooms and is designed by famed boutique hotelier Ian Schrager. The Tokyo Edition Ginza is a new 13-story structure featuring 80 rooms. Near Haneda International Airport, the Kawasaki Tonomachi Tokyu REI Hotel will be built in the science and technology innovation hub known as the Kawasaki INnovation Gateway. The hotel will feature life science research and development facilities. Another new project is Toranomon Hills Station Tower, a mixed-use high-rise complex that will feature offices, hotels, retail spaces and a new subway station. On the transportation side, long-term improvements include a motorway ring-road to bypass central Tokyo; a central arterial road to better connect central Tokyo to the Tokyo Bay area and its Olympic site; and a new railway connecting Haneda airport and Tokyo Station, cutting already low travel time from 30 to 18 minutes. Railway improvements are also in the works for Narita Airport, cutting travel time from almost an hour to 36 minutes.



According to data from The World Factbook, 41 percent of Japanese people are over the age of 55, and nearly 30 percent are over 65. In some parts of the country, young people are abandoning village life for the cities, shifting large portions of the younger demographic to already crowded urban centers. Therefore, as the domestic travel markets continue to decline due to aging, the need to develop and plan for a sophisticated international market emerges.

The three tourism policies that will support the proposed increase in tourism include:

• Using tourism resources for regional revitalization

• Developing the tourism industry as a new economic pillar

• Achieving improvements in travel infrastructure

Japan will launch a new long-haul market campaign in early 2018, following comprehensive market research aimed at the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia. The campaign will include new promotional videos about diverse activities that include trekking, diving, skiing, temple and shrine visits, art appreciation and brewery tours, among others. An official Japan Travel App, unveiled in September 2017, is designed to assist international travelers.

JNTO has created new regional marketing groups to lure travelers to the country’s more remote areas. The organization employs 47 conference ambassadors to promote and help manage large conferences, meetings and events. In 2016, JNTO opened new offices in Moscow, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, Rome and Madrid.

JNTO is also targeting the MICE market specifically, relaunching its meetings site, www.japanmeetings.org, this year. The updated site debuts in connection with a new logo and tagline, New Ideas Start Here, and has been upgraded with information on cities and venues across the country. It has a user-friendly interface, advanced search capabilities and is written expertly in English. The site also features an extended list of suppliers across Japan to help meeting planners get started.

The organization’s goal is to showcase 12 MICE-ready cities, including Tokyo. With many flights from U.S. cities that can connect to bullet trains and regional flights once in the country, all of Japan has become more accessible.

For general information on travel to Japan, visit the JNTO’s U.S. website at www.us.jnto.go.jp.