Guests at Visit Japan Travel Mart 2013 networked with 308 sellers from Japan. // © 2013 Julee Binder Shapiro
Officials are feeling optimistic about future tourism in Japan, and for good reason. In September, news arrived that Japan had won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. By October 2013, 8.6 million foreign visitors had already been to The Land of the Rising Sun, and by December, the count reached its goal of 10 million.
The 2013 Visit Japan Travel Mart, hosted by the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) at the Yokohama Grand Pacifico Convention Center in Yokohama, saw record numbers as well. Almost 300 buyers from 21 different countries attended, which is the highest number of buyers to ever have attended the conference. They met with 308 sellers from Japan’s local destinations, hotels and attractions. All participants were enthusiastic about the economy and tourism to Japan.
For Tel Chu, product development manager of Tonichi Travel Co. Ltd in Hong Kong, the VJTM is a valuable resource. Over the two days of the conference, Chu attended almost 80 formal appointments and participated in a number of informal conversations.
“I went to establish more working partnerships and opportunity in Japan,” said Chu. “VJTM makes it easy for me to meet all my potential suppliers in one place.”
For him, it’s not just about direct business alliances either. There’s a valuable networking aspect as well.
“I was able to exchange experiences with buyers doing the same kind of business as I am, but in other countries,” said Chu. “It’s hard to share experiences like this at home with my direct competitors.”
JTA has been hard at work on its revamped website and brand campaign as well. At the conference, JTA senior director Yasuhiro Iijima talked about improvements to the “Discover the Spirit of Japan” promotion.
After much research on what Japan’s visitors are seeking, the brand campaign focuses on three core values: character, creation and common life. The JTA has found that guests want to experience the unique, enigmatic character of the Japanese people. Visitors also come to Japan to enjoy creations — art, food, and crafts — born out of the Japanese culture of meticulousness and intense attention to detail. Finally, visitors seek the simple pleasures of common life in Japan, particularly those connected to nature and everyday Japanese life.
These core values are the focus of JTA’s recently updated website, which features more than 180 videos in English, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese. By focusing on the three core values, and by continuing to offer travelers a variety of ways to experience Japan, JTA and the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) hope to see 20 million inbound tourists by 2020, the year that Tokyo will host the Olympic Games.
To streamline efforts and combine forces, Visit Japan Travel Mart 2014 will be combined with the JATA Tourism Expo and will take place in September. An effort such as this, combined with the palpable excitement around the 2020 Olympic Summer Games, makes the goal of hosting 20 million visitors seem within reach.