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Japan, one to watch in the coming year

Last week Japanese Prime Minister Abe was welcomed to New Zealand ahead of his official visit with a traditional pōwhiri, an image of which was tweeted by Abe to his 337,000 followers.  This is the first visit to New Zealand from a Japanese Prime Minister in over 12 years and signals a renewed energy in the Japan New Zealand relationship.

Earlier in the month, the release of the international visitor arrivals data for May 2014showed Japan holiday arrivals up 73.9 per cent on the same month last year. Following the introduction of Air New Zealand's new year-round daily flight schedule and our ongoing coordinated promotional efforts in the market there is a feeling of rising optimism in the growth potential of Japan in the coming year.
 
Japanese visitors are valuable from a 'total lifetime' perspective with visitors, on average, returning to New Zealand 2.7 times after their first trip. As future value is enhanced by attracting visitors earlier and younger, Tourism New Zealand and its key partners, recently initiated a strategy to specifically target the younger audience. Our strategy also continues to target the older visitor segment due to the value they deliver and the potential of its large, about-to-retire, baby-boomer demographic.

Tourism New Zealand has developed a Japan visitor market infographic, which offers some interesting insight into our Japanese visitors' behaviour. You will find this infographic and several others on the corporate website, www.tourismnewzealand.com.

Key observations are the large proportion of the market, 68 per cent, visiting New Zealand for a holiday. A relatively high figure when compared to some of our tier one and two markets. Germany, as a comparison, is at 62 per cent.

And a welcome 85 per cent of our Japanese holiday visitors are visiting only New Zealand on their holiday, and not splitting their holiday time with another destination.  This reflects the preference of Japanese travellers to focus on enjoying quality time in their chosen destination as well as Tourism New Zealand's sustained strategic focus on mono New Zealand travel promotions.

While in New Zealand, data from the Regional Tourism Estimates show regions Japanese visitors spend most in are Auckland, Queenstown and Christchurch with a good quality average spend per holiday visitor.

With the new financial year having just kicked off it's going to be another big year, as we look to see whether the growth we've seen over the past month is an encouraging sign of the potential 'pick up' from Japan in the year ahead.

In early July, in a two week joint venture campaign, Tourism New Zealand and Singapore Airlines launched a special promotional airfare from Japan to New Zealand. Featuring Singapore Airline's lowest ever promotional airfare to New Zealand of JPY52,000 (approximately NZD$700) the promotion will target the spring shoulder season travel period with digital advertising. A special campaign page has been developed on newzealand.com to support the campaign as well as New Zealand themed pages and subscriber newsletters on the Singapore Airlines website.

Later in the year, a 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand inspired joint venture promotion is planned with Air New Zealand targeting their 30 per cent increase in capacity over the kiwi summer season.

And of course, the last film in The Hobbit Trilogy launches this year  - and there's no denying the pulling power of all things Middle-earth or the massive exposure New Zealand has received in Japan through its association with the films. Market activity surrounding the launch of film three is planned to ensure the legacy of New Zealand as Middle-earth in Japan continues.

Nick Mudge

Regional Manager Japan & Korea