Japan's Hidden Gems: Steering Tourists Beyond Tokyo

Apr 08, 2024

Japan Country Onsen Town

Japan is endeavoring to distribute tourists from East and Southeast Asia more evenly across its regions, aiming to alleviate the effects of over-tourism in Tokyo by attracting travelers, especially those termed as “light repeaters” who have visited Japan multiple times, to less frequented destinations. This strategy follows a notable surge in Japan’s popularity as a tourist destination within these Asian communities. A study by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) revealed a strong desire among individuals from Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, among others, to visit Japan, placing it as their top travel choice.

With inbound tourism numbers starting to exceed those seen before the pandemic by the end of 2023, the focus is on diversifying tourist destinations within Japan. Despite the overall increase in visitors, the influx into rural areas is progressing at a slower pace compared to urban centers like Tokyo, a trend particularly observed among East Asian tourists who tend to revisit due to geographic proximity.

To address this, JNTO is launching an extensive promotional campaign aimed at these “light repeaters” to encourage exploration of Japan's countryside. The campaign strategically targets visitors from specific countries to regions within Japan that align with their interests and the current travel trends observed in the first half of 2023. For example, visitors from Thailand are being directed towards the Tohoku region, while those from Singapore are pointed towards Okinawa Prefecture, and tourists from Hong Kong are steered towards the Setouchi and Shikoku areas.

This initiative involves collaboration with online travel agencies like Trip.com and Expedia, encouraging travelers to share their experiences through reviews. Additionally, JNTO is working with media outlets and influencers from the targeted countries to further promote these less-visited locales.

This strategic push comes as global recognition of Japan's lesser-known destinations grows, with international publications such as The New York Times and Conde NAST Traveler highlighting cities like Yamaguchi and Kobe as must-visit locations in 2024, signifying a shift towards a more diversified and sustainable tourism model for Japan.

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