Japan’s tourism bodies promote wellness tourism

Japan is already a leading wellness tourism destination in Asia, but in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, tourism bodies are heavily promoting Japanese wellness tourism to broaden the country’s international appeal.

Because wellness tourists are big spenders, an inbound wellness tourism surge to Japan could help disperse tourists from the over-visited Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo routes.

48% of tourist stays are concentrated in the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, according to McKinsey & Company’s: The Future of Japan’s Tourism: Path for Sustainable Growth, which suggests a significant opportunity for Japan to attract more visitors to locations outside of the top urban areas. When tourists do travel to other administrative districts in Japan, they spend an average of 30% less than they do in those three major cities.

The Japanese government has made it a priority to revitalise non-metropolitan areas; increasing tourism in these areas is a core element of its strategy. The government apparently has plans to include medical institutions in destinations and neighbouring tourist spots outside Japan’s big cities that are relatively unknown to foreigners.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is developing wellness tourism in lesser-known destinations, such as Misugi, with forest bathing; and Beppu, on the southern island of Kyushu, known for its onsen (hot springs).

Other strategic wellness tourism zones include the Dragon Route in central Japan, which includes historic and cultural sites, natural landscapes (including Mount Fuji), and hot springs.

International groups including InterContinental, Hyatt and Marriott are capitalising on the attraction of the traditional Japanese spa experience and opening resorts in lesser-known destinations, including:

  • Park Hyatt Niseko, Hanazono, will open in January 2020 in one of Japan’s prime ski destinations, and will also have a large wellness component.
  • Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Niseko Village opens in September 2020.
  • Luxury resort operator Banyon Tree will open its first Japanese property in 2022 in Kyoto.
    The resort will house a Banyan Tree Spa and onsen facilities focusing on rejuvenation, with a specialty restaurant, and gymnasium.