Japan’s outbound tourism market will likely be worth more than US$49 billion by the end of 2025. Is your venue ready to welcome a new wave of Japanese tourists?
The rise of the Japanese tourist
Japan is the 17th fastest-growing outbound tourism market in the world and, over the next five years, the market is set to grow exponentially according to a study conducted by Visa. Couple this with the fact that Japan’s outbound tourism market will be worth a whopping US$49 billion by the close of 2025, as reported by Globe Newswire, and you’ve got yourself a very important market to watch.
Where are Japanese tourists traveling? Globe Newswire reported that Japanese tourists are traveling to Australia, India, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, the US, and the UK. And their number one reason for traveling? To go on holiday.
Appealing to a new outbound tourism market can be daunting – and so to help you capitalize on this travel trend, we’ve sought the help of an insider.
The insider’s perspective
We talked to Satoko Shimazu, a Tokyo native and Tiqets' Regional Manager in Japan, about how best to attract and cater to the Japanese outbound tourism market. Before joining Tiqets as a Regional Manager, Satoko worked for Veltra, a tour operator company and Tiqets affiliate, where she focused on improving the customer experience. She has spent a collective total of 25 years in Tokyo and has also lived and worked in the US and Taiwan.
Tiqets: Many European and North American countries use social media and email marketing to get in touch with prospective and current customers. In your experience, what are the best communication channels to use when trying to engage with potential Japanese customers?
Satoko: It really depends on the segment of customers you’re looking to attract. You need to take into account factors like age and gender. When trying to engage millennials in Japan, these are the communications channels I use:
Social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (Twitter is big in Japan – especially among the younger generations), and YouTube (this is how a lot of people collect information about sightseeing in their chosen vacation destination).
Google is the number one search engine people use to research their holidays.
Guide books: many Japanese tourists still buy guide books to plan their trips, they’ll also take guidebooks with them on holiday. Some of the most well-known and trusted guide books here in Japan are Chikyu-no-arukikata, Rurubu, co-Trip, and Mapple.
Tiqets: What additional museum/attraction features do Japanese tourists find useful?
Satoko: Translation into their own language is the most important feature for Japanese tourists as many Japanese are not very confident in their fluency in English. So audio guides that allow you to follow along in Japanese are a major drawing point. Japanese tourists are also drawn to limited-time events, souvenirs, and cute mascots. Anything with animation is also a plus!
Tiqets: Which regions are popular with Japanese tourists?
Satoko: According to Travel Voice, a journal for people who work in the tourism industry in Japan, the countries that people wanted to go to most in 2019 were Taiwan, Hawaii, and Korea. Asked where they’d like to go on their next trip, many Japanese said Italy, France, and Spain.
Tiqets: What kind of attractions do Japanese tourists generally like?
Satoko: Japanese tourists are interested in vacations where they can appreciate beautiful scenery (like nature holidays), experience local cuisine, see art, do some shopping, and enjoy hot springs.
Tiqets: When is the most popular time for Japanese people to go on holiday?
Satoko: Japan has a total of 18 national holidays in a year. (More or less every month has one or two holidays). Many people plan their vacations to coincide with these holidays.
The most popular holiday period is the summer (July-September; school children have holidays from July to August and universities take a break from July-September). The Bon Festival, a Buddhist tradition that honors the spirits of the ancestors, also takes place over two days in August – it’s treated as a national holiday.
The second most popular holiday period is Golden Week, where there are four national holidays within 7 days. Golden week always happens around April/May and is spread over 7-10 days depending on the year.
The third most popular holiday period is New Year, where it’s common for Japanese people to take about a week of holidays.
Tiqets: What extra information are Japanese tourists looking for when choosing an attraction to visit?
Satoko: Japanese tourists will look for customer reviews (and hopefully find some in Japanese, too!), famous people who did the same activity, media coverage (in the form of magazine articles, TV shows, and YouTube videos), comparison tables (to see whether there are other competitors and what they’re offering), limited-time or exclusive events, or souvenirs (Japanese tourists love limited offers!).
Tiqets: We’ve read that in Japan, there’s been a shift from group traveling to solo traveling. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Satoko: Group traveling is something that the older generation in Japan is interested in. The younger generation generally falls into the FIT (Fully Independent Traveller) category.
Top 10 tips for attracting Japanese tourists to your venue
Have these insights into the latest travel trends got you interested in tapping into the Japanese outbound tourism market? These tips, based on Tiqeteer Satoko Shimazu’s expertise, will put you on the Japanese tourist’s map.
1. Consider your location
Before you revamp your marketing strategy and invest in Japanese signage for every corner of your venue, spend some time reading up on how many Japanese tourists are likely to visit the city in which your venue is based. Perhaps you’re better off targeting one of the other emerging outbound tourism markets.
2. Speak the language
As pointed out by Satoko, many Japanese people are self-conscious about their English so make sure that you’re equipped to deal with Japanese tourists in Japanese. You can do this by making sure your website and booking process can be translated into Japanese and by offering, and advertising, audio guides to your venue in Japanese. If you partner with an OTA like Tiqets, both language and payment options for the Japanese audience will be taken care of for you.
3. Get your timing right
Take note of the periods when Japanese people are most likely to go on holiday so that you can schedule targeted offers and marketing campaigns accordingly. The most popular vacation periods for Japanese people are school holidays (July-September), Bon Festival (13-15 August in 2020), and Golden Week (29 April-5 May in 2020).
4. Hit the ‘gram
Satoko pointed out that Japanese people use Instagram to conduct some of their holiday research. Make sure you’ve got a solid social media strategy in place to give yourself a better chance of reaching international audiences. Still figuring out your social media strategy? This guide might help.
5. Get exclusive
Secure your spot in the Japanese tourist’s itinerary by offering an exclusive deal or a special tour. Giving private tours or behind-the-scenes access to parts of your venue is a great way to make visitors feel like their visit was unique.
6. Partner up
Two heads are better than one and double the publicity could mean double the visitors. Join forces with OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) like Tiqets or curation sites that are popular with Japanese tourists to increase awareness of your venue.
7. Show off your shop
Japanese tourists love a good souvenir, so get yourself some good merchandise and let potential visitors know about your venue’s shop. Some museums, like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Copenhagen, sell their shop’s merchandise online. This can be a useful way to pique people’s interest and get them excited about visiting your venue.
8. Add a celebrity spin
Get famous... with the help of someone famous. As with most products, a little celebrity endorsement goes a long way. We can’t all be like the Louvre and get Beyoncé and Jay-Z to swing by, but an Instagram mention from a local Japanese celebrity or a snap of someone from the silver screen having a good time in your venue will do, too.
9. Get reviews (but not just any reviews)
You’re probably familiar with the power of the review, but a review in the right language is even more powerful. Encourage Japanese visitors to your venue to write a review in their own language or make sure that your visitors can read reviews in their preferred language.
10. Be more animated
Jump on the anime bandwagon and hit a home run with your Japanese clientele. Japanese tourists enjoy souvenirs or experiences with an anime element. So get yourself a mascot or give some of your merchandise an anime spin.
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