The Japanese tourist board will focus on three key sectors as it looks to further grow visitor numbers from the UK.
In a bid to further capitalise on the destination’s current momentum and the interest seen as a result of the Rugby World Cup, the Japanese National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) will focus on showcasing the wellness, ski and cruise sectors.
In 2018, 333,979 UK travellers visited Japan, a figure that increased 7.5% year on year from 2017. In the ten years from 2008 – when 206,564 UK travellers headed to Japan – to 2018 UK visitor figures have grown a massive 61%.
Speaking at Abta’s Travel Convention in Tokyo, Matthew Joslin, marketing and communications manager at the JNTO, said the tourist board was specifically keen to strengthen Japan’s cruise offering.
He said: “A core part of our mission is spreading tourism throughout Japan, and not just having people visit the main cities. We are also pushing a message to encourage people to travel outside the peak season which is traditionally cherry blossom.
“Cruise is a big focus for us moving forward because it’s a great way to see so many destination. Cruise is something that is really emerging as a great method of seeing Japan and we see that prefectures around the country are investing because they see cruise as a big opportunity. We have done cruise partnerships before but we’re looking to strengthen what we do around cruise.
“Our big three themes which we are focusing on moving forward would be cruise, wellness and ski.
“Wellness will show us highlight traditional Onsen culture and rural Japan. Ski will also be a focus for us to highlight the range of holiday types available in Japan.”
He said ski was on the rise for the UK market, with the destination recently returning to Ingham’s ski programme.
Japan’s diversity was showcased in a destination seminar at this year’s Abta convention, moderated by Travel Weekly’s editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley.
During the session, delegates heard from experts from various prefectures and specialist tour operator Inside Japan.
The seminar also included a session on cruise, with senior leaders from the industry sharing insight on the growing popularity of cruising in Asia.
Tony Roberts, vice president UK & Europe at Princess Cruises, said Asia had overtaken the Caribbean in popularity among its UK guests.
Michael English, head of sales at Celebrity Cruises, agreed Asia was seeing huge growth in the cruise market and encouraged delegates attending the Abta convention in Tokyo to capitalise on their new found knowledge of the destination.
“You know have destination knowledge those that haven’t been to Japan are missing, use that to your advantage,” he said.
Dnata Travel’s Lisa McAuley concurred with English’s sentiments in a separate session.
Her brand’s Gold Medal and Travel 2 brought 27 agents to the convention.
“We brought a significant number of agents out here, and it was a big investment to do so but as a B2B operator I’m in the lap of the gods – travel agents are my gods – and it’s critical we invest in their education so they can speak on our behalf and showcase the destination.”
She said the brands had seen triple digit growth year-on-year across all types of trips to Japan (including cruise, touring and land).