Friday, October 14, 2011

10,000 Free Tickets to Japan

We all remember Captain Kirk getting damage reports from the engine
and other rooms after each Clingon attack. The Enterprise sustained
damage but teams went to work to soon restore it. But the Japanese
tourism effort after the quake and ensuing radiation episode ? We've
had our reports and well .. we've sorted of fixed a few things. In the
meantime, tourism, namely the movement of people into, out of, and
around a country for in the first instance, leisure and recreation,
has all but hemorrhaged.

Crisis management is a label used for containing the fallout from a
catastrophe, and is inherently reactive. This suggests that a
definitive goal is reached whereby the crisis is no longer, and
therefore no longer needs managing. Japan's inbound tourist industry
is deemed to be in crisis as arrivals have plummeted from highs
reached just prior to the quake. The number of Australian visitors to
Japan had been booming in January and February, due in part to the
popularity of ski resorts in Tohoku and Hokkaido. These numbers
plummeted in March also, by about 47 per cent. A few months on,
tourist numbers remain well down, with 36 per cent fewer visitors to
Japan in June compared with a last year and about 42 per cent fewer
from Australia. Domestic tourism has also suffered; Matsushima - one
of the three most famous scenic spots in Japan (along with Kyoto and
Miyajima, near Hiroshima) - has recently been receiving only 20 to 25
per cent of the usual tourist numbers.

There are good explanations, of course. Travelers feel diffident about
holiday-making in a region hit recently by such tragedy. They don't
want to intrude on grief, or perhaps get in the way of relief efforts.
In the case of Australia now, the flavour of the month is the US and
the media is wasting no time in fueling this binge.

The word 'crisis' embodies 'turning point' and little negativity can
be felt in that label. Japan is fond of making reference to
'Phoenix', and rising from the ashes. What better a way to ponder
Japan's touristic future than to look to the past ? A report of a
Tokyo Radio broadcast on September 4, 1945 - about a month after the
Hiroshima bombing and about three weeks after the surrender - quotes
Gyoji Arau, the director of the Japan Tourist Industry Association. He
announced a "new start" for tourism in Japan and urged his members to
pay attention to hotel facilities and supply of souvenirs.

The quake and the ensuing radioactivity crisis gave birth to the
coinage 'flyjin' referring to the flighty 'gaijin', Japan-resident non-
nationals. A derogatory term used of residents who flew the coop, the
label might usefully be applied to a Band-Aid measure Japan is
concocting right now.

Preposterous even to the countries who rely on tourism for their
livelihood - which Japan does not - Japan is proposing to fund the
airfares of 10,000 'overseas tourists' to visit the country in 2012.

The Yomiuri Shinbun has revealed, "In an attempt to boost the tourism
industry hit by the nuclear disaster following the March tsunami, the
Japan Tourism Agency plans to ask would-be travellers to submit online
applications for the free flights, detailing which areas of the
country they would like to visit. The agency will select the
successful entrants and ask them to write a report about their trip
which will be published on the Internet. Tourism authorities hope that
positive reports from travellers about their experiences in Japan will
help ease international worries about visiting the country, the
newspaper said. If approved by the Diet, they will start accepting the
applications via online. After the trip, the winner may be asked to
complete a survey and asked to give suggestions to JTA".

Calamities occur almost on a daily basis now, and see tourist
recipient nations jump into recovery mode. They very quickly go to the
travel trade and sponsor visits to reassure agents of the safety
aspects. The JNTO is currently inviting 60 Australian agents as part
of a campaign to convince the industry that it is a safe holiday
option. Australia has been Japan's sixth most important market behind
South Korea, China, Taiwan, the US and Hong Kong, and numbers have

Turning members of the travelling public into publishers via their
respective social networks is the ostensible aim, as JTA is hoping
that the winners would help promote Japan tourism by using social
media and/or blogs. It is handing out candy in the hope that these
'writers' would 'leave breadcrumbs' to borrow an internet marketing
term, and it courts nasty issues, not the least of which the
possibility - God forbid- that some of these writers would like it
enough to 'overstay'. The communiqué continues by saying, "The
applicants must submit their travel plan in addition to the passport
information. The Japanese government will judge the plan, and
investigate if the applicant has the intention to overstay illegally
or not. If the applicant passes, she or he will given a free round-
trip ticket to Japan"

Not long ago, well thought out PR campaigns would create viral
conditions which would see participants feverishly record their
impressions for all and sundry to see. The award winning 'The Best Job
in the World' campaign done in Queensland is one such example, but
here we have Japan doing something it can ill-afford to do, and
something only it would consider doing. While the statistics confirm
the sources of tourists - and one could argue demand is at a developed
stage - there are hundreds of other countries with populations
unexposed in a latent demand situation. It will be interesting to see
which countries are 'allowed' to send a would-be ambassador, and how
these visitors are spread geographically.

One could also surmise that this is in fact a gigantic PR exercise
designed to go viral and if so all kudos to Japan.

Content is king so they say, whereever it resides. Well-thought out
initiatives are already in place inside Japan such as,
a ranking/reviewing engine which promotes discussion at the grass
roots level thereby swaying consumer behaviour. The constant stream of
items gives a feeling of activity and effervescence, and with
stringent quality control bolsters credibility. Unlike the 'one-off
hit' which Japan is considering, this approach feeds off itself and
creates momentum which endures, something Japan desperately needs
rather than a Band-Aid.

Begging the world's public to produce content, stealing or borrowing
it from other sites raises the 'artificial' flag very quickly and
would do more harm than good.

Japan is nothing if not resilient. Arrivals into Japan will quickly
spot the two mottoes 'gambaro Japan' and 'Beautiful resilient Japan'
which hail this, but much much more thought needs to go into campaigns
which are poised to indebt the Japanese taxpayer even more. High level
assemblies such as the WTTC Global Summit to be held in Tokyo April
2012 will see lesser meetings held in Sendai to focus on risk and
crisis management, with the WTTC President saying "The recovery of
Japan is one of the most compelling issues facing global travel and

Robert Scott

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

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