Several factors can be attributed to Japan’s lacklustre performance in
the New Zealand market. While there was moderate growth in 2004
following SARS, there have been a number of other mitigating factors.
The New Zealand dollar moved up 88 per cent against the yen in the past five years which has resulted in New Zealand holidays becoming more expensive to the Japanese traveller. On the flip side, the US dollar has only increased eight per cent, making holidays to America from Japan a lot more appealing.
Contributing to this is the expense of airfares from Japan to New Zealand. In global terms they’re considered high, ranging from JPY 77,000 (NZ$1,000) to JPY 310,000 (NZ$4,100) for a return economy fare from low to high season.
Better exchange rates and diminishing concern about terrorism has resulted in the European and North American destinations becoming more popular with the Japanese long-haul traveller.
Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York and Florida are popular destinations for Japanese right now. Last year the 50th anniversary of Disneyland provided a big incentive for family travel to the USA.
There’s also been an upswing in short haul travel within Asia over the past four years with Japanese travellers completing more than six million trips a year to destinations like China, Korea and Taiwan.
While economic conditions are improving Japanese travellers are becoming more and more price conscious and they are trading down to cheaper holiday options.
Travel to New Zealand has never represented more than 1.2 per cent of the overseas holiday market in Japan. New Zealand’s profile in the travel sales environment and consumer advertising is consequently very low.
There have been a number of one-off events that have influenced the slump in the Japanese market in 2005.
The World Expo in Aichi near Nagoya attracted around 11 million Japanese visitors and can quite clearly be seen as having a negative impact on overseas travel from Japan. In the Chubu area alone there was a drop of 39 per cent in arrivals to New Zealand.
Back home poor snow conditions during the winter season also weakened demand for skiing and snowboard holidays.
Air New Zealand’s 10-day cabin crew strike in July resulted in around half their services to Japan being cancelled, and led to a number of holidays being abandoned, while the airline’s cancelled 24 Osaka services saw the loss of 5,500 passengers.
On a positive note JTB arranged a 14-flight charter series during October and November 2005 using Japan Airlines B747 aircraft.
Bringing the Japanese Back
The Japanese visitor market has always been a consistent performer for New Zealand providing the largest source of Asian visitors. They are also among the highest spenders. But 2005 has been a less than remarkable year for this key market.
Over 5000 students travelled to New Zealand on school excursion trips, which was an eight per cent increase on similar charters
Tourism New Zealand conducts a Visitor Satisfaction Index on an annual basis, and Asian visitors, including those from Japan, do tend to have a lower level of satisfaction with their visit to New Zealand than those from New Zealand’s other key markets.
Although Japanese visitors are generally satisfied with their holiday in New Zealand, less of them are in the ‘extremely satisfied’ and ‘very satisfied’ categories compared to New Zealand’s other key markets.
Some insight into this can be found by looking at the way the Japanese plan and take their holidays. For instance, they tend to have shorter holidays to New Zealand, their decision to come to New Zealand was made in a shorter period than many other key markets and they participate in fewer activities while on holiday.
Generally visitors who spend more time planning, and do more while they are in New Zealand have a higher level of satisfaction with their time here.However, this is changing. Since the last survey in 2004, many Japanese visitors have increased satisfaction with most aspects of their New Zealand holiday, particularly relaxing, adventure and excitement, history and culture, natural landscapes/scenery, and availability of good food.
The number of Japanese visitors who rate their holiday to New Zealand as ‘extremely satisfying’ is also increasing. This can be attributed to a number of changes.
Japanese are taking more time to see New Zealand as a possible holiday destination and to make their final decision to actually come.
More information sources are being used when planning their holiday (with a significant increase in use of websites), and average satisfaction with information sources is now higher than in 2003/04.
They are participating in more activities than last survey, and are more satisfied with the activities they participate in. They are also much more likely to use i-SITE visitor centres and have higher satisfaction with them.
After more than a decade of stagnation and deflation the macro situation in Japan is also looking more positive, with the Japan economy finally in growth. Employment conditions and consumer confidence are improving and Japan’s government has recently won electoral approval for a reform-focused continuation of the Koizumi government.
Tourism New Zealand is increasing advertising for the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign by 60 per cent this year to NZ$4.2 million and will launch a new Japanese language version of www.newzealand.com. A substantial part of the media campaign in March will support the launch of this new website.
New Zealand will take over the high profile Roppongi Hills shopping centre and advertise at Ginza Station in Tokyo for two weeks in March to promote destination New Zealand at the time that the new Japanese language version of the website goes live.
Maori culture has been at the centre of a series of consumer events organised by Tourism New Zealand and JATA (Japan Association of Travel Agents). Thousands of people in Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Okinawa got the opportunity to experience Maori culture and watch Whale Rider which was screened at each event.
Fourteen sales and planning staff from Nokyo Tourist Corporation visited the South Island in August to plan the itineraries for a major New Zealand sales campaign that they hope will deliver 1,000 travellers in April and May this year.
Finally, Tourism New Zealand is working on a major media initiative to attract the Ururun TV series to New Zealand. It will involve
Japanese celebrities being challenged to complete a variety of tourism focused adventure tasks.
Along with these marketing initiatives and the strengthening Japanese economy it’s hoped 2006 will see a steady improvement in the Japanese market.
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