Spotlight on Japan – Edition 3
27 October 2021
As news of Australia’s re-opening plans are gaining momentum, what has been the response in the Japan market?
The mood in Japan is certainly picking up. New COVID-19 case numbers are down 98 per cent on where they were only two months ago thanks to a successful vaccination program, rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing. News regarding the phased reopening of Australia’s borders is resonating well in the travel industry in Japan and coincides with the end of the state of emergency and the relaxation of restrictions here.
At the time of writing, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania have already announced dates for quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated travellers. It is understood by the industry that Australia’s borders will first open to Australian citizens and permanent residents, then most likely students, business travellers and skilled migrants, followed by tourists.
One of the remaining ‘friction points’ on the road to full recovery is the quarantine setting in Japan, for returning travellers. Currently at least 10 days’ home quarantine is required in Japan for anyone returning from overseas. Until the Japan-side quarantine is removed for fully vaccinated travellers, the industry feels that market demand for international travel will not recover to commercially sustainable levels. The Japanese lower house elections are scheduled for 31 October and we expect we may soon start to hear more information about plans for reducing or phasing out quarantine.
A revised version of the Japan domestic ‘Go To Travel’ discount campaign, which will provide a much-needed boost to the domestic industry and major travel agents, is also likely to begin before the end of the calendar year.
Can you share insights into your plans to support recovery from the Japan market?
We are putting the finishing touches on a major integrated relaunch campaign right now, so that we are ready to go once we have the green light for inbound tourism. Consultations with state and territory tourism organisations and industry show a high level of interest in working together with Tourism Australia when we roll out the campaign activities.
In the meantime, we are continuing with demand-generating activities across Japanese language social media channels Twitter, Instagram and Facebook; travel and general media; and assisting our key distribution partners with content and assets as they build out their digital sales platforms and plan new product for destination Australia.
Australia.jp continues to develop and grow as the main ‘go to’ source of up-to-date and reliable information on travel to Australia. Most of our digital marketing content links to australia.jp, providing a rich travel planning resource for the Japanese consumer. Our most-viewed pages currently include sustainable accommodation and tourism experiences, Aussie food and wine, and indigenous culture. New functionality will be released soon to make it even easier to search for content and detailed answers on your favourite travel topic.
How are the Japanese travel trade faring?
Of course, the travel industry in Japan has been very badly affected during COVID, as in most countries around the world.
Nonetheless, through a combination of business restructuring, standing down of staff, government wage support and seeking alternative work (such as helping the Olympic Committee and running call centres for the vaccination program), the industry remains ready to relaunch business when borders are open and quarantine-free travel can be facilitated at both ends.
This will entail the rebuilding of tour products and planning new marketing campaigns and distribution channels. While it will take time to build up to full strength again, most operators can commence relatively quickly with online ‘dynamic package’ product, offering simple itineraries and inclusions.
Airline capacity will play an enormous role in the ramp-up of business. In the case of the Japan to Australia routes, both ANA and JAL have continued to operate limited services during the pandemic. Qantas will recommence limited services on the Tokyo to Sydney route from 20 December. Jetstar has announced it will commence early February to Cairns with Gold Coast to follow. We continue to work with the airlines on the route to ensure optimal levels of capacity to meet market demand. All carriers have indicated flexibility to be able to increase capacity as demand recovers.
Are you seeing evidence of any emerging consumer travel trends that are relevant for travel to Australia?
On average, Japanese consumers now have an additional 400-500,000 yen (AUD 4,700 – 5,900) in savings compared to before the pandemic. ‘Revenge spending’ is likely to be a trend, which augurs well for travel, but equally many people are likely to want to maintain the higher level of savings, or use some of it to pay off mortgages, etc. Some people may well take a more cautious approach and opt for domestic travel in the short term while waiting for international travel conditions to ‘settle’.
According to a JTB survey released in August, 33.6 per cent of respondents are uncertain whether they will or won’t take an overseas trip in the 2021-2023 period. Over 18 per cent of respondents plan an overseas trip during that period, 7.1 per cent previously travelled overseas but now do not intend to do so in future, and 41.2 per cent have never travelled overseas before. Males and females in their 20s and 30s are the most likely to be planning an overseas trip. With more than a third of people currently undecided or having decided not to travel internationally, it will clearly take time for the market to stabilise and recover. However, this is also an opportunity for Australia to take a bigger share of the international market.
And personally, what is on your wish list of experiences when you finally get the chance to return to Australia?
Firstly, it will be a great opportunity to see family and friends after more than a year away and enjoy some delicious Australian food and wine in the process. I have also promised to do the Story Bridge Adventure Climb in Brisbane (but not immediately after the food and wine)!
Then there’s the Minjerribah Indigenous fishing experience I’ve been wanting to try.
I’d love to spend some time at the beach on the Sunshine Coast, and then get away to the beautiful Kangaroo Valley for a few days R&R.
A visit to see friends in Tassie, Melbourne and Adelaide. Take The Ghan to Darwin and then hop over to Western Australia to swim with some whalesharks at Ningaloo.
And just hang out at my local café, Bitton, in Alexandria, Sydney.
Maybe that’s two or three trips. I am going to need some more time off next year…