Japan has, once again, topped the country ranking of highest number of international meetings in ICCA’s annual rankings at 492 meetings in 2018. This can be partly attributed to the Japan Convention Bureau having reinforced and expanded the network of Japan Conference Ambassadors, a group of notable professionals from various industries and academic institutions who contribute to meetings and events.
According to Susan Ong, MICE director, Asia Pacific, Japan National Tourism Organisation, the bureau has also focused on enhancing the branding of the destination by increasing social media presence, developing a user-oriented website and showcasing activities and facilities via fresh videos.
“The leading convention cities in Japan [known as ‘Global MICE Cities’] are continually enhancing their services and facilities for international event organisers, which has led to a high level of trust. This is reflected in the increase of total number of conventions held as most of these cities rank high in the ICCA statistics,” said Ong. Aside from Tokyo, these “leading” cities include Sapporo, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Sendai, and Kobe.
While Japan has done well for itself in the last decade for many reasons, does its recent meteoric rise point to the impending Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup? According to Ong, they play a big role.
“Big-scale international events coming our way have contributed to the both the popularity and awareness of our destination and for the renovation and expansion of accommodation and event facilities nationwide,” she said. “Still, we hope that when the events take place, there will be an increase in the number of incentives and meetings that happen around them.”
Aside from the Olympics and the rugby, the “big-scale international events” that Ong refers to are G20 Summit in late June, the World Masters Games in Osaka in 2021, and the World Expo in Osaka in 2025.
As international delegates storm into Japan (bolstered by strong leisure arrivals), available room nights for groups are scarce. “In the case of events held in Tokyo, for example, organizers can book accommodation in neighbouring areas, such as Yokohama or Chiba since we have a very good transportation system for them to commute to the venues in short time,” said Ong.
“We can [also] tell event planners considering on bringing their events that there is still availability on hotels pre- and post-Games. Many [other] destinations nationwide have developed accommodation and venue options, such as the case of Osaka, Okinawa, and many others.”
After the flurry of events leave town, will Japan suffer a slowdown? “There might be a slight dip in the number of meetings after the Olympics,” said Ong. However, she added that supporting international conferences are continuously taking place in Japan regardless of mega-events like the Olympics.
These include the JCI World Congress in 2020 (Yokohama, 10,000 attendees), the World Congress on Earthquake Engineering in 2020 (Sendai, 3,500 attendees) and URSI 2023 (Sapporo, 1,200 attendees). Ong said: “[These events] were already decided to be held in Japan and among others, we hope to step up from the Olympics and maintain the popularity that our destination has achieved.”