It’s a fact, Australia has a yen for Japan, and the land of the Rising Sun is only getting hotter with the outbound travel market. While waiting for second quarter figures, statistics for the first quarter of 2018 with increases across the board (March increased 19% from 39, 965 in 2017 to 47, 500 in 2018), indicate Japan is on track exceed half a million Australian visitors this year*. (*Source: JNTO Statistics )

The exponential rise in Japan visitation has been noted in all sectors of the travel industry. Increasing from 167, 525 Australian visitors in 2011, to 495, 000 in 2017, Australians now stay an average of 13.2 nights (other markets 9.1 nights), 50% stay over two weeks and Australia sits at number 2 on visitation from international markets, after the USA (excluding Asian markets). In response, air routes have increased, including the launch of All Nippon Airways back into the market in 2015 after a 16 year absence, and a Sydney-Osaka Qantas route in December 2017.

Who’s visiting? In short, everyone. For Australian ski enthusiasts, Japan is highly regarded for it’s ‘Japowder’, however, this niche market is not accounting for the increase in over-all visitation, with the areas of Tokyo, Chiba, Kyoto and Osaka as the top 4 most visited by Australians (the skis area Hokkaido comes in 7th).

However, these early destination adopters may have a role to play in propelling awareness of Japan to other travellers. Harry Sargant, Sales and Marketing Manager of InsideJapan Tours says, “Those original skiers had their interest piqued on the slopes, and now have gravitated to other areas of Japan. Behaviours have changed, instead of a ski vacation and a few days in say, Tokyo, they are doing a Japan trip, and tacking on a few days of skiing. Plus we have the gourmet, nature and culture lovers. In general, people are dispersing, going beyond the bigger hubs and discovering the magic of regional areas”.

In what is often considered an unfamiliar culture, Australians have been relying heavily on word-of-mouth. In regards to inspiration, 56%* said they have used offline sources, being recommendations from family and friends, to collect information for an upcoming trip. (*Source: Consumption Trend Survey for Foreigners Visiting Japan 2017, Japan Tourism Agency).

Japan aims to have 40 million international annual visitors in 3 years, the year of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

FIVE REASONS FOR JAPAN’S RAPID RISE

Air access – there has never been more easier, and cheaper ways to access various points in Japan.

All-Season Attractions – From Cherry blossoms in May to Leaf Peeping n August, the snow of December and idyllic summer days, every season has an allure all it’s own, there is no true off-season.

Culture & Charisma – whether dipping in a toe, or aiming for a completely immersive experience, the charming, intriguing and safe nature of this ancient culture is beguiling. Tour operators are also making the general landscape more navigable and familiar for those who may initially have found the linguistic and lifestyle differences intimidating.

Repeat Visitation – once bitten… completely addicted. As Sargant says, diversity is what entices Aussies time and time again. “You might first discover Japan on a ski trip, but then fall in love with the frenetic pace of Tokyo, and return to check out the temples and shrines of Kyoto, or one of the uplifting pilgrimage hiking trails,” he says. “Once you tick off the classic sights, you soon realise there is so much more to see that a second or third trip to Japan is almost essential.”

Affordability – Not only has the destination taking centre stage, but it has never offered travellers better value, with the Aussie dollar having strengthened 13 per cent against the yen, according to the Expedia Currency Monitor report.

New itinerary launch

For clients keen to head away from the regular touristy areas, see the incredible natural beauty of the country, eat some great regional food, experience ryokans and soak in a hot spring or two, InsideJapan Tours is now launching a Romantic Road self-drive trip, encouraging visitors to accessing more-off-the-beaten path areas.

Starting in Nagano, the trip covers the most scenic 310km of the route in 5 days, allowing multiple pauses and explorations, through Gunma (via Kusatsu Onsen and Minakami with white water rafting April – October) into Tochigi (Lake Chuzenji and Nikko), and finishing in Utsunomiya. From $4182pp https://www.insidejapantours.com/self-guided-japan-holidays/i-rmr/romantic-road/

Source: Inside Japan Tours