Several hundred U.S. travel suppliers and DMO representatives gathered recently via Zoom to take part in Connect Travel’s “Connect with” series of virtual roundtables, learning that, for Japanese travelers—now and when international travel re-starts—that passenger safety “will be priority number one.”
Featured in the discussion were: Romeo Dublin, inbound sales department, Nippon Travel Agency America, Inc. (he is leaving his post at the end of August to return to Japan from Southern California); Shunji Uchida, inbound sales department, Nippon Travel Agency America, Inc., who is replacing Dublin; and Toshi Koseki, general manager, TTA, INC. Moderating the session was Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel and general manager of Connect Travel Events.
What emerged as the Top Takeaways from roundtable included the following:
—For Japanese travelers to the U.S., as well as the operators who sell the USA, “safety will be priority number one.” This point was made on a number of occasions.
—Right now, travel activity is at a standstill. Recovery, when it occurs, will resume in the second quarter of 2021.
—First to resume will be domestic travel within Japan, to sporting events and festivals. Etc. International activity will follow, with FITs leading the way; groups will follow.
—In the interim, should keep operators informed with new product information and updates on travel conditions and safety rules and regulations. When contacting an operator, “think visually,” and “think digitally.” Send updates online.
—DMOs especially should develop “how to sell” webinars that focus on selling a destination’s attractions and experiences.
—When revising or creating itineraries for operators to consider, hold off on those which include more free time. While FITs might like such flexibility in their itineraries, groups prefer wire-to-wire activity.
Romeo Dublin: “Student groups are very sensitive about this virus. We did have a lot of group activity up until the end of this year, December. But most of them have cancelled. So, you can imagine how much business we’ve lost; I mean, everybody lost a lot of business.”
Toshi Koseki: “Our colleagues had not been working, so when they started working—that was in June—we started to pick up some uh quotation Inquiries, but the earliest one is, like, February next year. So, there is nothing for this year. That’s the current situation. It’s very difficult but that’s the reality.”
Shunji Uchida: “When I came to here to America, I saw that many people were not wearing the mask. Among typical Japanese in Japan … everyone is wearing the mask. I was really wondering the why people are not wearing them. Yes, it’s really difficult for everyone to be wearing the mask—I know. But in this kind of situation, I think the Japanese do not feel not comfortable to come.”
Romeo Dublin: “Safety is number one no matter what. Safety and the support at where and wherever we’re going to be traveling to is very, very important. JATA (Japan Association of Travel Agents) just had a meeting uh last week and they were talking about it. I mean, they really stressed that safety has to come first before anything.”
Toshi Koseki: “(For Japanese) The priority will be the how safe they feel. So, if there’s a fascinating destination but it’s not safe, people will not go there.”
To view the complete roundtable session, click here.