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Special Report: Go big in Japan

Tokyo to use 2020 Olympics to boost country's meetings and events offering

Pictured: Japan has ambitious plans to see its MICE offering blossom

According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), in 2016 Japan was ranked joint seventh in the world as a destination for international conferences. The country has ambitious plans to grow those numbers, using the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games as a launching platform. To get an idea of the scale of their ambition, Japan aims to more than double total visitor numbers from 28.69 million in 2017 to a staggering 60 million by 2030 - and MICE will be an important part of this growth. 

By its own estimates, Japan’s Tourism Agency estimates that in 2015 the economic benefit of international conferences to the country was €4.6 billion. Japan’s huge network of convention bureaus are helping to make this growth happen. When that goal is combined with Japan’s incredibly efficient transport infrastructure it makes the country an attractive destination for conventions and incentives.

Iain Bitran, executive director of the International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM) is currently planning an event to be held in Fukuoka in December 2018. “Japan is totally set up for meetings and events and, in my opinion, has the best infrastructure around. The convention bureaus are also extremely professional and understand the needs of meeting planners. They will endeavour to understand your event and connect you with all the right people locally. This specialist assistance is vital as our association always needs to connect with the local innovation community.”

Cost and language are often perceived as the biggest barriers to holding events in Japan, so is it true that it’s a ‘difficult’ destination? Iain Bitran: “No, this is not true. Running a conference in Fukuoka is no more expensive than say Boston, Vienna or Stockholm. In fact, I would say it was slightly cheaper. As for being difficult, also not true. Japan is different. It has tradition and culture and as long as you know this you will find the Japanese very easy to work with.”

This view is echoed by Yuji Andreas Wendler, managing director of Teamtravel International, based in Cologne. He has run incentive trips to Japan for small groups on tight budgets and large-scale incentives for 140 employees: “One of our clients travelled to Tokyo and Kyoto with a limited budget, so we explored the cities like the Japanese would. We stayed in a typical three-star business hotel, took local trains for sightseeing and combined the sightseeing with some work and site visits. After the official dinners we took them to the small alleys of the older parts Tokyo, where normally only Japanese go, taking drinks with the locals and ending up in karaoke bars. The guests took back unforgettable memories. Japan is never disappointing.”


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