IN LINE with Japan National Tourism Organization's (JNTO) shift towards South-east Asia, the regional tourism body from Kyushu is banking on its accessibility and transport options to attract more inbound arrivals.
At the Singapore leg of a two-city roadshow featuring sellers from the southern Japanese region, Naoyuki Sato, director general of the Kyushu District Transport Bureau, said in a message that South-east Asia was now “top priority for Kyushu, especially Singapore”.
Hiroyasu Konishi, manager, overseas division, Kyushu Tourism Promotion Organization (KTPO), said self-drive holidays were one form of travel the board was keen to further promote to Singaporeans.
“Singaporeans consider Kyushu a countryside destination and many families come to Kyushu for self-drive holidays. Compared to the congested roads of Tokyo and Osaka, Kyushu is easy to drive in. In Kyushu, we also drive on the same side of the road,” Konishi added.
Also introduced at the roadshow was the new Kyushu Railway Company’s Seven Stars in Kyushu cruise train, which would take passengers on a luxury 4D3N or 2D1N trip around the region and bundle in a high-end ryokan stay, from commencement of operations in October.
“Travel consultants can add such trips on to a six-day itinerary, for instance,” suggested Konishi.
JNTO data shows a total of 21,220 Singapore travellers visited the Kyushu region in 2012. In comparison, 235,160 Singapore visitors went to Tokyo and 132,320 travelled to Hokkaido.
Furthermore, KPTO has stepped up its effort to engage the trade, holding a fam trip for 36 travel consultants from six South-east Asian countries last month, and organising a roadshow in Bangkok for the first time.
However, Kyushu is still overshadowed by top-of-mind destinations in Japan such as Hokkaido.
SA Tours’ product manager, Ebonny Ng, said: “When people think of Japan, it’s still Tokyo or Hokkaido.”
He cited the example of Harmonyland in Oita, Kyushu, featuring Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, which was bigger than Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo but not as well known due to a “lack of awareness”.
On what else could be done to promote travel to Kyushu, Ng pointed out: “A few years ago, many Hong Kong and Taiwan dramas featured Kyushu as a setting, so there was an opportunity there (but it was not leveraged). But in Singapore, (travel) shows rarely go there.”
Ng observed that demand for Kyushu tours at SA Tours was seasonal, occurring mostly in June or December, and said that the company saw about 10 group tours to the region annually.