Arrivals in Japan from key markets including the UK, US and Australia are returning to levels reached before the horrific earthquake of March 2011, as the country makes a “surprisingly fast” recovery.
Japan still managed to rank 13th in the International Convention and Congress Association (ICCA) country rankings for 2011, despite three-quarters of the year being post-quake.
“We thought it was going to be a lot worse," said Chad Shiver, conventions manager at the Japan National Tourism Organization. “About 95 per cent of forward events cancelled for three months, then many went ahead as planned. Last autumn, six months after the earthquake, we were as busy as the autumn previous. It hadn’t hurt us as much as we first expected. It was the corporate clients that came back first – they had business relationships there and there was an element of CSR, but associations are coming back now.”
Speaking at the IMEX trade show in Frankfurt, Shiver said Japan now expected events business to climb in 2012 and 2013. A number of new developments are expected to help accessibility, including the addition of three low cost carriers on air routes within Japan and taking in Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei; plus extensions to the bullet train network within Japan.
Meanwhile the Chiba Prefecture is offering possible subsidies of up to 20m yen (£161,000) to attract international conferences of 1,200+ delegates; and the PACIFICO Yokohama Convention Subsidy has been upgraded to offer up to 3m yen for international conventions of more than 2,000 delegates.
Major new properties include the re-opening of the grand Palace Hotel Tokyo; a new Ritz-Carlton in Okinawa; an InterContinental in Osaka by 2013, while Kyoto Convention Bureau can offer receptions or dinners at three local temples to allow a cultural immersion experience.
Pictured: The new Ritz-Carlton Okinawa