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Thursday, 09 January, 2020, 12 : 17 PM [IST]

‘MICE movement from India has potential to be a very big market for Japan’

Recognised as one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry, Etsuko Kawasaki, Executive Director, Japan Convention Bureau, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) was responsible for launching Japan's MICE branding campaign with a tagline "New Ideas Start Here" to increase recognition both at home and abroad. The campaign differentiated Japan's business events from general tourism, and featured why organisations take their meetings to Japan. She spoke to Sumit Jha about the current vision and future plans for attracting MICE movement from the India market.

Q Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) through Japan Convention Bureau has actively started promoting Japan as a MICE destination to the Indian market. What is the current vision and the future plan for the Indian market?
We have recently started to promote our nation in the Indian market. We opened our India office in 2018 and honestly speaking we need to learn more about the geography and also the demography of the MICE industry in India from now on. I believe India is a rapidly growing country which has a very strong automobile and appliance industry. Given the industrial growth and other dominating factors, we believe that India has the potential to be a very big market for us in terms of MICE movement.

For people in India, Japan is a very new destination. So far people have visited only some of the major big cities of Japan like Tokyo and Kyoto. We have many more interesting and unique cities besides these two. We would like to introduce those small but very attractive unique destinations to the Indian people and would like to invite them as individuals and through their organisations to explore these places.

From our infrastructure perspective, across the country, there are dozens of governmentappointed International Convention Cities which have meeting facilities, hotels, research centres, universities and so on to be utilised for international meetings. Besides these, there are unique venues specially crafted to give an additional local flavour to the events.

Q What kind of numbers, in terms of tourist inflow, are currently coming in from India, with reference to only MICE?
As of now we don't have any survey or statistics focused on MICE movement into Japan. However, as an estimated figure, from across the world, we host about 2 million visitors coming to Japan for MICE.

Q The target was to get to 40 million visitors by the end of 2020, Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics year. How far has it been achieved?
So far we are having a very good turnout and based on that we believe that the target of 40 million is not a distant dream. We have a possibility of achieving that target. We of course need the support from Indian tourists and visitors from across the world to be able to reach to our target.

Q What strategies are in place to attract more people from India?
We need to get good exposure in the Indian media and publications reaching out to the travel planners and consumers so that they are more aware of the offering from Japan. Our department focuses on sales and marketing to travel agents and corporate travel managers. Keeping an eye on promotions, we organise individual familiarisation trips for travel planners who have prospective clients to send people from India. There are also some promotional schemes being rolled out to make it attractive for the travel professionals to prioritise Japan as their preferred MICE destination.

We have a separate department that focuses on leisure promotions in India.

We are working closely with them to give good exposure of our country - highlighting tourist attractions, our culture and activities, to the Indian market.

Q What specific steps are being undertaken, keeping the Indian visitors in mind?
We have to learn more about the history, background and the unique food and business culture of India. These are very different from the Japanese culture. To get everything in order and work closely, we must understand what we have to be aware of, what we can offer and what we should not. We understand that our food habits are very different and thus have been very careful in arranging programs for Indian citizens, especially in the food segment. This is a different and unique point in comparison to other markets. We do our best to care about food preferences and unique cultures of demographics of different countries to continue to learn more about what needs to be adapted. At the same time, we are also encouraging our suppliers to learn how to deal with and make contracts with Indian clients, which again is very different from what we are used to.

Q From a reciprocate point of view, and to learn more about the cultures of each other, is there enough push in terms of more people from Japan travelling to India?
Nowadays Yoga has become one of the most popular activities in Japan. Women have started to learn Yoga to keep good health. We are aware that Yoga has originated from India and thus there are many people travelling to India to learn more about Yoga. The nature and culture of Indians is very different from our own. People from here travel to see and learn more about Indian culture and traditions. Also, we have a big Buddhist community, ideas which also come from India. Many Japanese believers travel to India for exploring more about that too.

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