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Japan Market Continues to Blossom

Alberta is bucking the trend in overseas travel from Japan and continuing to woo visitors from the world’s third largest marketplace.

Although a slowing economy is seeing fewer Japanese travel outside their country — a 4.1 per cent decrease in 2015, according to Destination Canada — visits to Canada are targeted to increase 9.8 per cent in 2016, with Alberta as the third most popular destination.

While iconic scenery such as the Canadian Rockies continue to appeal, today’s Japanese traveller is younger and keen to experience the cultural, culinary and entertainment offerings of Alberta cities.

“The dual nature of their interests — urban and outdoor — provides a wide variety of opportunities to support new itineraries in all regions of the province, particularly in fall, winter and spring,” says Darlene Fedoroshyn, Travel Alberta’s Business Development Director, Asia.

Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 is a big draw in the Japanese market and Travel Alberta is maximizing that interest by supporting the creation of Alberta stories and content for trade, media and social media, including a Facebook community with almost 25,000 followers.

Travel Alberta is also hosting several business development trips for Japanese tour operators this winter and working actively in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events) sector.

Japanese Market Stays Strong

Japan was Canada’s sixth-largest source of overseas visitors in 2015, says Destination Canada, representing 5.6 per cent of Canada’s overseas tourist export receipts.

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta received 66,000 visitors from Japan in 2014, up 74 per cent from the previous year. Tourism expenditure was $111 million.

Air capacity from Japan to Canada increased 12 per cent in 2016 and is expected to increase another five per cent in 2017. Alberta has a non-stop flight on Air Canada from Narita to Calgary.

While Japanese travellers are still primarily attracted by natural beauty and scenery, a younger demographic is increasingly choosing destinations with rich urban experiences.

“We are seeing high interest in guided city tours and guided excursions beyond the city as well as hiking, wildlife and northern lights viewing,” says Fedoroshyn. “All of which Alberta is very well-suited to deliver.”

Canada’s Anniversary Sparks Interest

Canada’s 150th anniversary is triggering attention from Japanese media, in the educational student program market and with tour operators who are developing new packages and promotions.

“Announcements about special events and Parks Canada’s free admission at national parks and national historic sites in 2017 are sparking interest,” says Fedoroshyn.

Travel Alberta is developing new hub-and-spoke itineraries that use Alberta cities such as Calgary as a base, and collaborating with tour operators on promotions to drive visitation across the province. Dozens of itineraries have been translated into Japanese with new offerings developed for winter, the southern part of the province, as well as summer adventures in the north.

“There is high interest in aurora borealis viewing, so we are collaborating with British Columbia, the Yukon and Northwest Territories on packages that include Alberta stays to complete their Canada vacation,” says Fedoroshyn.

Travel Alberta also promotes stand-alone itineraries offering circle tours from Calgary to the Canadian Rockies, Edmonton and Fort McMurray that combine Alberta’s cities with the national parks and dark sky experiences. 

Alberta Stories Shared on Canada Theatre

In addition to posting regular Alberta stories and content to its Japanese Facebook community, Travel Alberta also supports Destination Canada’s Canada Theatre platform.

This website combines third-party media content, hundreds of tour operator itineraries and Destination Canada content designed to appeal to adventurous and experience-driven Japanese travellers.

“We’re also actively working with Destination Canada Japan on Japanese media visits, which are also shared on the Canada Theatre platform,” says Susan Darch, Travel Alberta’s Director, Global Media & Content.

In the winter of 2016, for example, Travel Alberta’s team helped lead the logistics of filming Nana’s Diary, a short piece featuring Japanese actress Saki Yasuda, skiing in the Canadian Rockies.

Canada Theatre provides a great platform to share Alberta experiences that are relevant to today’s travellers and to introduce lesser-known regions of the province, says Fedoroshyn. “In an established market like Japan, it is important for the province to be seen as a fresh and enticing place to visit.”

Active in Travel Trade and MICE

In addition to targeting the consumer market, Travel Alberta works closely throughout the year with Japanese tour operators, enhancing their knowledge of travel experiences across the province.

This winter, Travel Alberta is hosting key decision makers from the Japan Canada Tourism Association (JACATA) ─ an association of Japanese receptive tour operators based in Vancouver. The group will travel to Edmonton, Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise and Calgary to discuss opportunities to grow winter business in Alberta.   

A second business development trip in partnership with Destination Canada’s TEAM Canada Japan will host four or five key tour operators from Japan who will travel to Alberta to experience the province’s signature winter adventures and strategize about promoting winter packages.

This year, Travel Alberta completed in-house training seminars in partnership with Air Canada and Las Vegas with tour operators who deal with group tours and MICE. In March, four strategic MICE accounts are scheduled to visit Alberta.

There are many opportunities for Alberta partners to get more involved in the Japan market, particularly through the receptive tour operator network.  If you have an export-ready product and would like to learn how to position it for the Japanese market, contact Rhonda Reid, Manager RTO Development at Rhonda.Reid@travelalberta.com


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