Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Japan inbound tourism - where to? A case for intelligent branding

Japan is slogan land. 'Beautiful resilient Japan' runs alongside 'Ganbaro Nippon', a couple to keep the spirits up. Inbound tourism has been decimated it is said, and folks at home just haven't been willing to go too far afield for fear of being seen as 'escape artists'. It's perhaps time to bring back the 'wish you were here' line which found its way onto postcards and other media of the day several decades ago.

Just how bad is it? Natora spoke to Inside Japan Tours Ltd, based in Bristol UK and was told of the three things making life difficult for their tour operation:
- Ongoing radiation fears and lack of clarity / closure on Fukushima situation
- Very strong yen making Japan more expensive*
- General economic issues making people tighten their purse strings and forego some discretionary spend
*Mr King was quick to add that it is still good value once people actually get to Japan.

We next talked to Mr Endo, Director of Sales at Park Hotel Tokyo, a favourite of UK visitors. It would appear that while numbers were hit on the advent of the quake and radiation with the traditional April peak sustaining the biggest drop, there has been some recovery into the Japanese Summer. It remains to be seen how the October peak fares, as September was two thirds the number received in 2010. King at Inside Japan Tours was optimistic saying, "despite this, we have seen a steady improvement in departure, enquiries and bookings - September was only about 15% down on 2010 on all 3 counts"

Slogans should not be taken lightly. Japan's 'Enjoy yourself in Japan' goes nowhere, and it is this which graces the current VisitJapan programme, visible at http://www.visitjapan.jp/eng/coupon/index.html
The 'Visit xxx year' campaigns are now well and truly tired with only a few countries persisting where others are getting scientific about the visitor attraction exercise.

Australia's been at the slogan game too, as that country sees a dearth of inbound visitors relative to the numbers of its own nationals going abroad. There's been the much-lambasted 'Where the bloody hell are you', but then that sort of language was never going to go down in PC-Japan. For quite some time now Australia has been running the 'no leave, no life' slogan, and it has gained some traction although the message here is to get up and about in generic terms, with no push onshore nor offshore.
Other slogans come to mind which resonated well in their era, including 'don't leave home until you've seen the country', designed to reacquaint a local with his or her locale.

The director of Japan Association of Travel Agents believes the recovery of outbound travel from Japan is the first step towards recovery of the inbound market.
“Cheer Up Japan, Smile Through Travel” campaign has been launched to get people traveling and, in turn, help the economic recovery in the country.
Poster displays at mainline rail stations are encouraging Japanese to travel and those going overseas are being encouraged to take part in a postcard distribution campaign. Another odd, almost quaint attempt, perhaps one might surmise being sponsored by the postal service?
The idea goes that Japanese travellers are to hand the postcards - which bear the message “Hope to See You Again in Japan” - to their overseas friends in the hope of stimulating inbound travel to Japan.

Shizuoka's branding efforts brought a smile to our eyes. Mt. Fuji is one icon that the whole world can identify with and Shizuoka is home.
But before plucking a motif out of the air and branding a region should come data mining. It is incumbent on authorities to, well, not be so authoritarian, and to listen to public opinion, expressed in the form of User Generated Content, or UGC. Called 'brand auditing', this process should pre-empt the actual formulation and communication of brand which should be done via modern channels.
Natora firmly believes in the language of brand. Now more than ever in a tourism world cluttered with marketing messages, intelligent branding machinery must be deployed.

Robert Scott

T 0415.140.430 Vodafone
T 0413.363.135 Optus
02.8014.8229 ext. 878
Skype: rbtsct

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