TOKYO -- A growing number of Japanese companies are joining forces with local businesses in other parts of Asia in moves to cash in on the increased number of foreign visitors to Japan.
Retailers, travel agencies and companies in other industries are expanding international efforts to lure tourists from overseas to their products and services.
Department store operator Matsuya, for one, has partnered with a Thai shopping mall operator to offer discounts to membership card holders.
Major travel agencies like JTB and H.I.S. are also teaming up with local partners for booking and marketing operations.
With competition intensifying for massive spending by foreign travelers in Japan, which surpasses 2 trillion yen ($17.0 billion) annually, it is vital for Japanese tourist service operators to win over visitors before they even arrive in Japan.
Matsuya has struck a tie-up deal with the Thailand's The Mall Group, which operates department stores and shopping centers there. The deal involves allowing membership cardholders of the two companies to access benefits in the outlets of both.
The 2 million The Mall Group cardholders will receive a 5% discount on purchases at Matsuya stores. Combined with the exemption from the consumption tax for foreign tourists, The Mall Group customers visiting Japan will enjoy a 13% reduction at Matsuya stores.
Less tax, more shopping
In October 2014, the list of items eligible for the consumption tax exemption was expanded to include consumable goods such as cosmetics. Following the inclusion, sales at department stores in Japan eligible for the tax break doubled in 2014 from the previous year to over 70 billion yen. Matsuya is hoping to cater to well-to-do Thai consumers who are loyal customers of Mall Group stores.
Matsumotokiyoshi Holdings, which operates a nationwide chain of drug stores, plans to increase the number of its private-label products sold at supermarkets operated by its Thai partner, Central Group, a conglomerate involved in retail, real estate and other businesses. The Japanese company aims to become widely known among Thai consumers to attract them to its stores when they visit Japan.
Leading players in Japan's travel market are making similar moves to ramp up sales to foreign tourists. JTB, for instance, has linked its online booking system to that of a Chinese travel agency. In 2014, JTB tripled the number of Japanese tour packages for foreign visitors from the previous year to 1,200 offerings. The company plans to increase the number further. Chinese consumers can now book tours offered by JTB through its Chinese partner by selecting from the numerous options updated constantly.
H.I.S., another large Japanese travel agency, concluded in 2014 a franchise chain contract with Telekomunikasi Indonesia, or Telekom Indonesia, a major telecom service provider in the country. This summer, H.I.S. will launch a full-scale marketing campaign targeting Indonesian consumers by using the telecom firm's local sales bases. The Japanese travel service provider plans to increase the number of its sales outlets in Indonesia to 100 in three years.
Cashing in on winter
At the end of last year, MacEarth, which operates more than 30 ski resorts in various parts of Japan, formed a partnership with two Chinese ski resorts -- Jundushan ski resort near Beijing and Beidahu ski resort in Jilin Province. The move is a response to the growing ranks of Chinese ski tourists visiting Japan. MacEarth will work with the Chinese partners to entice more of the country's ski lovers to visit its resorts in Japan.
The Japanese government predicts that the number of foreign visitors to Japan will exceed 15 million in 2015.
Repeat foreign visitors are also on the rise, making it increasingly important for Japanese businesses in the tourist industry to make greater efforts to leave lasting impressions. Such efforts to welcome travelers will do much to increase the chances that the Japanese government's target of 20 million international visitors in 2020 is achieved.