Japan’s Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto may be evergreen destinations, but well-heeled travellers are increasingly on the look out for local experiences in relatively untapped places, according to Daisuke Kobayashi, deputy manager at Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).
Speaking to Travel Weekly Asia at ILTM Asia Pacific in Singapore, Kobayashi said, “During the trade show, we came to realise that many buyers are interested to go beyond typical city experiences and instead learn about new and undiscovered destinations within Japan.”
In recent years, Japan has moved up the ranks to become the most popular luxury travel destination in the world in 2019, according to Virtuoso, a luxury travel agency based in the United States. Last year, the country was in third place.
On a broader perspective, the country received 30 million foreign visitors last year – the first time it has ever done so. In Asia Pacific, its top source markets include China, which saw 8.38 million visitors to Japan last year; Taiwan, with 4.76 million visitors; Hong Kong, 2.2 million visitors; Singapore, 437,000 visitors; and Indonesia with 396,000 visitors.
Responding to travel trade feedback for more information on Japan’s luxury offerings, JNTO launched a website in May to highlight bespoke experiences ranging from gastronomy, nature, heritage, arts & culture to luxury transportation and accommodation. The list, which currently features 77 experiences, is updated every year and can also be found in an e-brochure available for download here.
Two destinations that Kobayashi recommends are Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands famed for its nature, onsen hot springs and cuisine; and Matsushima in northern Japan’s Tohoko, which is best visited in autumn to witness the changing of foliage.
JNTO has increased its investment in trade shows such as ILTM Asia Pacific where it sponsored the media centre (pictured) and opening forum.
At the same time, JNTO will also be stepping up its participation at luxury travel trade shows to disseminate more information on the country’s high-end experiences. “Up till this year, we’ve only taken part in ILTM Cannes and Asia Pacific. But in November, we will be taking part in Further East in Bali for the first time, followed by Traveller Made in Spain next March,” said Kobayashi.