Over the years many of my most well-travelled friends have said that Japan is the most beautiful and fascinating country they have visited. It turns out they were well-informed early adopters because Japan is emerging as one of the world’s hottest destinations following decades of sluggish visitation numbers.
The cheaper Yen, easier visas, booming outbound tourism from China and increased destination marketing have resulted in international arrivals exceeding 10 million for the first time. The aim of Japan National Tourism Office is to attract over 20 million visitors when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games.
News.com.au reports that “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has jumped on the bandwagon with “Cool Japan” and “Omotenashi,” or Japanese-style hospitality, national branding campaigns that capitalise on products and concepts considered uniquely Japanese, such as “anime” cartoons and traditional “washoku” cuisine.”
Among the challenges that Japan will need to address are improved services for overseas visitors such as ATMs and wider acceptance of international credit cards. But a bigger challenge will be the dispersal of visitors throughout the country beyond major cities and attractions. This will involve the wide adoption of place branding and destination marketing that will resonate with prospective foreign visitors. Combined with this is the need for comprehensive branded wayfinding and signage systems to better guide non-Japanese speaking visitors through locations.
As a nation of great innovators, it will be fascinating to watch how Japan goes about place branding beyond its first tier cities and the innovations it will bring to the branding of small cities.