Today we talk to Kimie Kojima, Senior Manager at the JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Company, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Kimie has been a SITE member since 2018.

Tell us a little about what you do/your business.

JTB’s core vision is the expansion and enhancement of tourism so we offer solutions to a wide range of businesses through appropriate research and analysis. We want to help the tourism industry move forward to further prosperity and greater profitability. This includes strategy development for MICE promotion, the development of necessary human resources, and more!

Your recent research shows that visitor numbers to Japan are down 99% compared to the same month last year. What are the main international markets for Japanese tourism? What proportion of this would have been business versus leisure tourism?

According to JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization) statistical data, nearly 90% of inbound are tourists and around 6% are business travellers. However, the Japanese government is expecting an increase in business travellers for the purpose of MICE. In future, the Japan Tourism Agency predicts more ‘Bleisure’, with business travellers extending trips for leisure purposes.

Do you think Japan’s international market will change as a result of the Pandemic? i.e. visitors from nearer destinations, more exclusive use groups etc.

Given Japan’s high hygiene levels, I believe Japan will become an even more popular destination for international travellers. Train/Bus station escalator railings and train straps are wrapped with antibacterial stickers in Japan. Are there any other such countries?

However, as we are an island country, the most important thing is to be able to travel abroad freely by plane. 98% of Japan’s inbound tourists come by plane, so it doesn’t matter whether they are from nearby or distant countries.

As an expert in travel trends, do you think travel will be forever changed because of this pandemic?

For a while, travellers will be forced to travel on the premise of a ‘new normal’. However, it is not what the traveller really wants, so when the conditions are met, I believe there will be a return to travel as before. People will never forget the fun they once knew!

2020 has been a steep learning curve in so many ways. What are the main lessons you have learnt over this time?

Until this pandemic, the most important thing for businesses was to work efficiently, make a lot of profits, and give back to stakeholders through selection and concentration. However, I think the values that are the basis of business continuity may change in the future. Companies that were very focussed on one area only are in great danger now because if the business of choice cannot continue, they are in danger of going bankrupt. On the other hand, companies that diversified and were doing business in various fields are able to survive from other revenue streams, even if one was damaged.

On a personal level, I’ve learned that motivation comes from everyday enjoyment. Without the fun of traveling, watching concerts and plays, going to baseball games, and going out to eat with friends, I feel I have less purpose to work hard.

How did you get into this industry? What is it you love most about it?

The first place I worked was at a hotel in Tokyo. After experiencing an inbound travel agency, which is one of the JTB group companies, I moved to a PCO of the same group. I think I enjoy working in the MICE industry because I like to see people having fun.

As a local, what is your favourite thing to show visitors to Japan?

The best thing about Japan is that you can clearly feel the four seasons. Japanese culture and people’s lives are influenced by nature, which changes with the four seasons. Whenever you come, experience views of the mountains, rivers and seas, big cities, old towns and countryside. You will enjoy the naturally created culture, art, food, festivals, flowers, greenery and many more enjoyable experiences that change with the seasons.

For example, just this past month, in September, you can appreciate and enjoy the harvest moon viewing. Seeing the full moon in the clear autumn air and enjoying the scenery quietly at the ceremony to thank the autumn harvest is something really special.

Written by Kimie Kojima, JTB Tourism Research and Consulting Co.

Industry Insights - Kimie Kojima Interview.

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