Japanese tourists’ interest in the Baltic Sea countries is increasing

Japanese tourists’ interest in the Baltic Sea countries is increasing
Japanese tourists are increasingly more interested and travel around the Baltic Sea countries including Latvia, Estonia and Finland. Compared to Central Europe and West Europe, the Baltic Sea region is safer and offers varied tourism opportunities. Safety, including low risks of natural disasters, alongside with beautiful and diverse nature, rich cultural and historical heritage, qualitative accommodation and direct flights are the factors that are of high importance for Japanese travellers in choosing their travel destination.

In 2015, 21 575 Japanese tourists visited Latvia, which is 39% more compared with 2014. In Estonia, there have been even more visits – 96044 (21% increase compared with 2014). This could be explained by geographic location and available tourism infrastructure – Estonia is closer to Finland, which is regarded as the flight destination for Japanese tourists. Direct flights from the biggest cities of Japan are organized only to Helsinki by the airline Finnair. As a result, Finland is the country that attracts a comparatively large number of Japanese tourists that constitutes 5% of the total number of tourists (454 000 tourists in 2015). In Latvia and Estonia, Japanese tourists constitute a comparatively small proportion of all inbound tourists (~1.5% – 2%).

Given the large distances and costs, Japanese tourists usually do not plan to visit more than one country during their travel – such behaviour is characterized by 67% of tourists. A typical Japanese travellers’ itinerary in the Baltic Sea region starts in Helsinki and further moves in two possible directions – to the south (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) or to the north-west, thus visiting Sweden and Norway.

Japanese tourists are mainly interested in the culture of the Baltic countries, enjoy sauna, bath-house or SPA treatment as well as visit islands to see their unique flora and fauna.

Japanese visitors are also interested in rural tourism – they want to take a rest, walk and observe nature. During the last years, the tourists’ interest in participation in different workshops, where they can themselves make crafts or culinary delights is growing. Approximately 10% of tourists are keen on such traditional activities as mushroom and berries picking or distilling of birch tree juice.

Tourists from Japan usually belong to “60+” age group and usually travel together with their family, traveling alone is not so common. Language barrier is the aspect that most of all embarrasses tourists, thus the travel is most often organized in groups with the guide who speaks Japanese language. Most often travel is planned in summer months and beginning of autumn (August and September). In one country, the visit usually takes 1-2nights, while the overall travel takes 11-14 days.

What does it mean for the tourism service providers? If tourism service provider wants to attract a Japanese tourist as a new client, it is necessary to adapt to tourist’s requirements. For Japanese tourists, quality and cleanness of accommodation are of high importance as well as clear and comprehensive road signs and public transport organization, language skills and access to information before traveling. To help rural tourism service providers attract Japanese tourists, in scope of the Central Baltic programme project CAITO special attention will be paid to find out Japanese tourists’ requirements and needs in order to prepare special training courses for tourism service providers how to target Japanese tourists. It is intended to develop a hand-book on the Japanese tourist market characteristics and recommendations for improvement of the tourism product.

In scope of the project, several marketing activities in Japanese market will be carried out to promote Latvia, Estonia and Finland as a unified destination of Japanese tourism industry and individual tourists, for example, a web site in Japanese language, which would include Latvian, Estonian and Finnish rural tourism offers.

The project is implemented in cooperation with rural tourism NGOs and universities of Latvia, Estonia and Finland and with Baltic Sea region organizations (national tourism agencies and tour operators, transport companies and organizations, municipalities etc.).

Further information is available on the project website www.caitoproject.eu.

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