Regional Japanese destination marketing organisation Setouchi Tourism Authority begins its appeal to the UK trade at WTM in a bid to boost cultural tourism in the region.
The DMO, launched last year in Japan, appointed Black Diamond as its first representation firm in the UK a month ago and is now seeking UK tour operators to collaborate with at WTM. It will work with Black Diamond to help establish agent training programmes and promote the region as an immersive destination among a market keen on culture.
The organisation covers Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime, making it the only one of its kind to encompass multiple prefectures in Japan. It is targeting British travellers ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, when several of the games will take place in the Setouchi region.
“We realise tourism itself in Japan isn’t really growing domestically, so the only way for us to sustain tourism in Japan is through inbound tourism,” Tomohiro Muraki, director of the Setouchi Tourism Authority, told Travel Weekly.
“Tokyo and other cities are overflowing with Asian and western tourists but it’s damaging nature. We want to focus on sustaining the Setouchi region and we believe the UK is an excellent market for that, with travellers here interested in sustainable and cultural tourism.”
Last year 300,000 UK visitors touched down in Japan, with a steady annual growth rate of 10-15%. UK travellers also ranked number one in terms of tourist spending, with an average stay of 12 days, making them a desirable market to attract.
“We are approaching UK tour operators at WTM to get more on board,” said Mika White, head of PR and trade for the organisation. “Some tours do already operate in the region but it feels like they’re exploring spots, like Hiroshima and the island of Naoshina, rather than creating an itinerary around the region which is our goal.”
The organisation plans on hosting a fam trip in February for operators and will be launching a website next month with a dedicated trade section to help educate the industry on what the region has to offer, including its hotels, several of which are set to be updated; plans are already underway to renovate 100 existing ryokans in the region by 2020.
“A lot of people come to the likes of Hiroshima for a day from Osaka, but the region has much more to offer and we want to show people that by working with the UK,” said White.