Japan's recent visa waiver for Thai and Malaysian nationals has raised the country's allure as an incentive destination, according to planners in Thailand and Malaysia.
Japan has risen to become the “best-selling incentive destination” this year at Go Holiday Tour Thailand, whose bookings from January to October have reached 1,600 pax, compared with 1,000 for the same period last year, said sales executive, Adtaporn Theppreechasakul.
Likewise, another Thai outbound operator, Bonus Travel, has recorded a “doubling” of incentives to Japan so far this year, according to its sales manager, Arthit Kiatbenchaphong, who added that footprints are spreading beyond Tokyo and Nagoya, with Sapporo, Okinawa and Fukuoka gaining popularity.
Over in Malaysia, the depreciation of the yen against the ringgit has also helped to boost outbound incentives to Japan.
Desmond Lee, group managing director of Malaysia's Apple Vacations & Conventions, said the company has been seeing larger incentive bookings for Japan and bigger budgets for land components.
BMC Travel Malaysia's managing director, Billy Leong, expects Japan-bound incentives to grow 50 per cent year-on-year for 2H2013, mainly to Tokyo and Osaka.
Many corporate clients are also shifting from Europe to Japan for this last quarter as the euro strengthened against the ringgit by 12 per cent over a four-month period from May, said Leong.
Cooper Huang, chief executive director of Malaysian Harmony Tours & Travel, said his company has been receiving enquiries mainly for Tokyo and Osaka for 2H2014, although Hokkaido is gaining popularity.
Meanwhile, the strong travel demand from Thailand to Japan is outpacing air capacity between the two countries.
Always Vacation Thailand’s Jiraporn Jearsilanuwat senior executive for sales and marketing urges carriers to raise flight frequencies and launch new destinations in Japan to spread footfalls beyond Tokyo and Osaka.
Arthit said: “We are advising our MICE clients to travel during non-peak periods (to avoid competing with FIT and group tours).”
Read more in the IT&CMA and CTW Asia-Pacific Show Daily