New report suggests growth for Japan’s wellness sector

A new Global Wellness Summit (GWS) report suggests that Japan could have a boom in inbound wellness travel. The country needs more strategically planned wellness tourism zones, routes and tours.

The GWS has recently identified five wellness trends in Japan:

  • Inbound wellness boom
  • Japanese beauty
  • Healthy homes and cities
  • Age-tech opportunity
  • Workplace wellness

Asia is the leader in the global wellness tourism market, but Japan has had more modest recent growth in wellness tourism than other Asian nations. Japan has many unique assets that wellness travellers may want, from a hot springs culture to forest bathing, which has led GWI to suggest there are opportunities for the country to promote and grow its inbound wellness travel market.

Because wellness tourists are big spenders, an inbound wellness tourism surge would help Japan manage issues with over tourism in big cities, and increasing numbers of foreign arrivals who spend little.

Japan has 21,000 onsen hot spring resorts, and new luxury onsen developments with holistic wellness experiences, including InterContinental in Beppu and Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton in snow resort Niseko will all open in 2020.

The country needs more strategically planned wellness tourism zones, routes and tours. Some exist, such as the Dragon Route developed in central Japan, which packages mountain hiking, a local food/craft scene and hot springs retreat, and Walk Japan, which leads off-the-beaten-path walking tours where tourists eat like a local, soak in hot springs, and stay in rustic ryokans.

The quest for spiritual healing and mental wellbeing are world wellness trends, and 2018 legislation which is opening up Japanese monasteries to tourists and the rise of Terahaku (the Airbnb of temple accommodations) allows more travellers to stay in Japan’s hundreds of Buddhist monasteries.

Forest bathing was developed in Japan in the 1980s and has recently become a global phenomena, with wellness resorts worldwide announcing new forest bathing programmes. There are 62 official healing forests in Japan and hundreds of trained guides.

Japan attracted 31.1 million inbound tourists in 2018 and aims to double that to 60 million by 2030. For that to be sustainable, they must spread these travellers out.

The Japan National Tourism Organisation wants to increase visitor spend by 80% by 2020 to US$74 billion. Wellness tourists spend US$2,192 per trip versus US$1,436 for the average Japanese tourist.