Aussies flock back to Japanese slopes

Aussies flock back to Japanese slopes
By admin

Australian sales of Japanese ski product have dramatically rebounded from the post-earthquake lows of 2011, with many wholesalers declaring 2012/13 the best season ever.

Although figures from the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) showed Australian visitor numbers in prime ski months January and February were substantially down on 2011 figures by 27.6% and 16.6% respectively, this season has been an entirely different story.

Ski Japan general manager, Marcus Williams, told Travel Today sales for the 2012/13 season are up by 10% on 2010/11 which had been its busiest season. The figures represent an 85% increase on 2011/12 lows.

He attributed the recovery to the consistency of the powder snow and the prevalence of earlybird deals and other specials.

"The exchange rate has also been improving throughout the year making our ski packages cheaper," he said. "We haven't see the Aussie dollar as strong against the Yen in years."

Australian Lachlan Bowes, owner operator of Central Snowsports Hakuba, also reported a considerable rise, with business from Australia up 75% this winter. Jetstar's support of Hakuba ski product is a factor in the increase, he said.

Skimax reported "unprecedented demand" for Japan product this season, with managing director Rodney Muller declaring the destination is now "back on the map".

"Skier numbers this season have far outstripped any year in history and the demand continues to be strong for last minute bookings for this current season," he said.

The return of Aussie skiiers to Japanese slopes has also had a positive effect on sales of Japan rail product, according to Rail Plus sales and marketing manager Greg McCallum, with pre and post-touring itineraries around the ski trip often requiring a Japan Rail Pass.

McCallum admitted to Travel Today that 2011 had been "very flat" for Japan rail sales following the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami which struck in March.

But 2012 has seen interest in the destination recover, with McCallum reporting sales back to 85% of the levels seen in 2010, which had been a record year. The result exceeded the firm's forecast of writing 70% of 2010's figures.

The Japan Rail Pass's "amazing" value for money proposition is a major driver for the recovery, according to McCallum, with passes the same price year round.

In addition, the ramping up of air services to and within the destination by Jetstar and Jetstar Japan has made it much cheaper to fly there.

"The myth of Japan being expensive has definitely also been wiped away via word of mouth," he said. "In fact, skiing in Japan is considered by many people cheaper than staying on the mountain at a resort in Australia, and that includes your airfare to get to Japan."

Meanwhile, JNTO projected final visitor numbers from Australia for the year would be up 27% on 2011 figures to hit 206,000 with overall visitor arrivals expected to rise 34.6% for the year to 8.37 million.

The tourism body held a Japan Ski Expo in Sydney and Melbourne last May to stimulate interest in the destination's range of ski experiences.


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