Whither Japan’s Tourism: from samurai swords to cheap beers on the beach?

Posted By on Oct 9, 2019 in Events, Japan |

Delphi Network Salon (location details below intro).

By invitation only.

Join a DN Salon with Ashley Harvey, an unrivalled source of information on how Japan is dealing with its tourist challenge, and exploring how to “package” Japan for foreign consumption

Please note places are limited. DN members get guaranteed access, so unfortunately it may not always be possible to seat Non-DN members. 

Title: Whither Japan’s Tourism: from samurai swords to cheap beers on the beach? 
Speaker: Ashley Harvey GM Aviareps

For many Westerners (at least, of my generation), Japan has always been a dream rather something concrete

We tend not to pine for specific experiences like we might regarding having a love affair in Paris, eating soul food in New York’s Harlem, or enjoying London’s nightlife. Rather, Japan existed as powerful images comprising warriors, glittering swords, suicide pilots, startling erotica, Yukio Mishima novels and Kurosawa films.

DN members themselves often initially came to Japan because of a fascination with martial arts, as the CEOs of Robert Walters, Godiva and Dale Carnegie would testify…

The problem is that once you arrive, it’s difficult, in the never-ending concrete of mega-Tokyo, to get a vivid sense of all that. And the problem has only got worse with younger tourists, who pine for the similarly abstract world of cosplay and Miyazaki anime

Fortunately, all this will be changed and rationalized, at least if the GoJ listens to the wise advice of Mckinsey. The danger perhaps is that Japan will end up as just another tourist theme park

In a report, Mckinsey lays out what Japan has done well, and where the country still lags. I was more impressed by what Japan has done well than what she still needs to do.

Perhaps it was luck, but Japan’s timing was impeccable. It was just as China’s personal income began to rocket that Japan allowed Chinese to get 5-year visas, as long as they met very low income requirements (around $20,000 p.a). At the same time, it made Japan visa-free for Thais and Malaysians. Shortly afterwards, Japan secured the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics. Exceptional progress by any standards! 

On the logistics side, the GoJ finally saved us from reliance on Narita by refurbishing and upgrading Haneda. And even Narita is now far more accessible thanks to better service on the 70 minute Narita Express.

But while Japan attracts plenty of Asian tourists, she does less well with Westerners. For the reasons I gave above, they may be ignorant of what Japanese themselves consider outstandingly beautiful places to visit. And they stay ignorant during their time in Japan, rarely moving out of the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka corridor. 

For Mckinsey, it’s important that Japan improve its communication, both to encourage existing tourists to diversify and to attract a whole new group of more pragmatic tourists, who might visit Japan as they visit Bali, China and Thailand – ie with little pre-existing interest in the country, but more for a safe, cheap and somewhat exotic trip, with reliably attractive destinations. 

Indeed, Japan still has a reputation for being expensive, which is unjustified compared to Paris, London and big US cities. Japan has low-cost eateries and hostels which can compete with Bangkok and many parts of China. 

Mckinsey also paints a politely damning picture of the main actors in Japanese tourism. These mighty players have not adapted from their mission to help Japanese travel abroad – unfortunately, a shrinking sector. Japan Travel Bureau and Japan Travel Agency have almost zero foreigners on staff, and about the same number of English speakers and digital experts…  

Further, there is no coordinated, public-private, national, cross-industry strategy. Digital access (reservations and payment) remains behind. All this obfuscation means that operators like booking.com are able to charge premiums of 30% compared to Japanese language sites, for the same standard of rooms…

Is Mckinsey right to thus encourage mass tourism? Or is Japan the (perhaps unintentionally!) smarter player, shunning sudden mass tourism in favour of a different, more sustainable model? Indeed, what should tourism look like, in an age of climate change? 

Ashley Harvey, GM of Aviareps Japan, has spent most of his career in Japan and in tourism. He has worked for inbound and outbound tourism and for both Japanese and foreign entities at a senior level. He will give an authentic, on the ground, report on these fascinating questions. 

Cost: 2,000 members; 5,000 non-members. 

Light food and the renowned DN selection of substantial wines will served! 

DN Salons and Summits follow “Chatham House rules”. This means they are off-the-record. Attendees may repeat what they have heard but they should not attribute the comments to any person or company, to avoid embarrassment. 

7.30pm Doors open, networking and light food
8 speech
830 Q&A
9.15 (at the latest) END