How Japan is using bloggers to attract tourists

How Japan is using bloggers to attract tourists

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has just launched a high-profile campaign working with three bloggers – Kash Bhattacharya of Budget Traveller (budgettraveller.org/), Abigail King of Inside the Travel Lab (www.insidethetravellab.com) and Alicia Drewnicki of Alicia Explores (aliciaexplores.com) – to promote the country to a new audience. We spoke with Kylie Clark of JNTO to find out more.

How does the blogger campaign fit into Japan’s overall digital strategy for 2015?

Kylie: JNTO’s marketing strategy comprehensively includes the use of digital media in major campaigns. However, this is the first time we have worked with bloggers for a campaign for the European markets.

The following is our overall strategy for inbound tourism:

Our goal is to increase the number of foreign visitors to 20 million by 2020. To achieve this goal, we have expanded our target markets. For the past ten years in Europe, our target markets were UK, France and Germany. Since last year, we have been expanding our promotional activities in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Israel and Turkey.

To raise awareness of Japan in these Europe-wide markets, digital tools are essential and effective, we are keen to work with influential social networks and consumer generated media, including bloggers.

The blogger campaign is a great opportunity for us to utilise blogger’s talent for destination promotion.

Generally speaking, how important are bloggers for Japan today compared with more traditional media such as print travel writers and broadcast journalists?

Kylie: Our three videos are designed to introduce Japan in the eyes of the consumers in Europe. Our main target is people who are experienced travellers, but haven’t visited Japan yet. Our aim was that by watching the bloggers’ videos this target market would get a feel for what they too could experience of Japan’s rich culture. Then through reading their blogs or visiting their social media pages it would help get people more interested in traveling to Japan. Therefore, we decided that bloggers would be more suitable as reporters than journalists in this project.

Print travel writers and broadcast journalists are also very important in enhancing the awareness of the destination. We are supporting their coverage, also organising media fam trips from European countries.

How did you choose the three bloggers – did you look at things like Klout, other figures, profile or was it something else?

Kylie: We worked with the Lonely Planet team to choose travel bloggers who are experienced writers as well as reporters.

How closely are you working with JTA, Lonely Planet and Finnair on this?

Kylie: JNTO always works together with JTA, a government body, to plan and launch a variety of projects. JNTO is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) committed to a broad range of activities promoting travel to Japan.

As for Lonely Planet and Finnair, our London office is their main contact and has a long and strong relationship with these brands. But this is the first time that JNTO have collaborated with them in such big and global campaign.

The Lonely Planet crew did film shooting in Japan to make three themed videos, which are on the campaign website (http://www.welcome-japan.jp/) and Lonely Planet’s YouTube channel. They also created 30-second TV commercials with the same themes (cut-back versions), which are now broadcasting on BBC World, Euronews and National Geographic.

A joint campaign with Finnair is being held during February, using banners and pre-roll videos online.

What ROI are you hoping for?

Kylie: The number of foreign visitors to Japan from our target countries in Europe was 890,000 people last year. It was a 17% increase on the previous year. We are expecting continued growth this year, and this campaign should contribute to this growth.

How important is the video element of the campaign?

Kylie: The three videos by Lonely Planet are the main element of the campaign. The videos should draw attention to Japan as a travel destination in European countries.

Is social coverage from the winning ten people considered to be an integral part of the campaign?

Kylie: We expect the ten winners to spread out their experiences to their surroundings after their travel to Japan by word of mouth as well as by social media. (Word of mouth has a huge influence on selection of travel destinations.) But it is not an integral part, which means it is not mentioned in the conditions that winners should report in their blogs or via social networks.

Have you set specific targets for this campaign to be judged a success?

Kylie: Evaluation points in the short term are the numbers of visitors and page views of our campaign website, and in the long term, the number of arrivals from each market.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has just launched a high-profile campaign working with three bloggers – Kash Bhattacharya of Budget Traveller (budgettraveller.org/), Abigail King of Inside the Travel Lab (www.insidethetravellab.com) and Alicia Drewnicki of Alicia Explores (aliciaexplores.com) – to promote the country to a new audience. We spoke with Kylie Clark of JNTO to find out more.

How does the blogger campaign fit into Japan’s overall digital strategy for 2015?

Kylie: JNTO’s marketing strategy comprehensively includes the use of digital media in major campaigns. However, this is the first time we have worked with bloggers for a campaign for the European markets.

The following is our overall strategy for inbound tourism:

Our goal is to increase the number of foreign visitors to 20 million by 2020. To achieve this goal, we have expanded our target markets. For the past ten years in Europe, our target markets were UK, France and Germany. Since last year, we have been expanding our promotional activities in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Israel and Turkey.

To raise awareness of Japan in these Europe-wide markets, digital tools are essential and effective, we are keen to work with influential social networks and consumer generated media, including bloggers.

The blogger campaign is a great opportunity for us to utilise blogger’s talent for destination promotion.

Generally speaking, how important are bloggers for Japan today compared with more traditional media such as print travel writers and broadcast journalists?

Kylie: Our three videos are designed to introduce Japan in the eyes of the consumers in Europe. Our main target is people who are experienced travellers, but haven’t visited Japan yet. Our aim was that by watching the bloggers’ videos this target market would get a feel for what they too could experience of Japan’s rich culture. Then through reading their blogs or visiting their social media pages it would help get people more interested in traveling to Japan. Therefore, we decided that bloggers would be more suitable as reporters than journalists in this project.

Print travel writers and broadcast journalists are also very important in enhancing the awareness of the destination. We are supporting their coverage, also organising media fam trips from European countries.

How did you choose the three bloggers – did you look at things like Klout, other figures, profile or was it something else?

Kylie: We worked with the Lonely Planet team to choose travel bloggers who are experienced writers as well as reporters.

How closely are you working with JTA, Lonely Planet and Finnair on this?

Kylie: JNTO always works together with JTA, a government body, to plan and launch a variety of projects. JNTO is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) committed to a broad range of activities promoting travel to Japan.

As for Lonely Planet and Finnair, our London office is their main contact and has a long and strong relationship with these brands. But this is the first time that JNTO have collaborated with them in such big and global campaign.

The Lonely Planet crew did film shooting in Japan to make three themed videos, which are on the campaign website (http://www.welcome-japan.jp/) and Lonely Planet’s YouTube channel. They also created 30-second TV commercials with the same themes (cut-back versions), which are now broadcasting on BBC World, Euronews and National Geographic.

A joint campaign with Finnair is being held during February, using banners and pre-roll videos online.

What ROI are you hoping for?

Kylie: The number of foreign visitors to Japan from our target countries in Europe was 890,000 people last year. It was a 17% increase on the previous year. We are expecting continued growth this year, and this campaign should contribute to this growth.

How important is the video element of the campaign?

Kylie: The three videos by Lonely Planet are the main element of the campaign. The videos should draw attention to Japan as a travel destination in European countries.

Is social coverage from the winning ten people considered to be an integral part of the campaign?

Kylie: We expect the ten winners to spread out their experiences to their surroundings after their travel to Japan by word of mouth as well as by social media. (Word of mouth has a huge influence on selection of travel destinations.) But it is not an integral part, which means it is not mentioned in the conditions that winners should report in their blogs or via social networks.

Have you set specific targets for this campaign to be judged a success?

Kylie: Evaluation points in the short term are the numbers of visitors and page views of our campaign website, and in the long term, the number of arrivals from each market.

blog_wtm_mark_frary_17feb_bodyThis is the first time JNTO has worked with bloggers in the UK market. How do you feel about being chosen to take part in the campaign?We also spoke with blogger Kash Bhattacharya of the Budget Traveller about his involvement in the project.

Kash: I feel deeply honoured to have been chosen as part of this historic campaign. It takes a great leap of faith to put the message of your spring advertising campaign in the hands of three bloggers but I guess it’s a sign of how far the industry has advanced. It was a surreal but happy feeling when your friend calls you from Amsterdam to say he’s seen you on BBC World. We’ve come a long way but this is just the beginning…

Had you been to Japan before and, if not, what were your impressions?

Kash: Never been!  It was a dream trip for me. I loved the blend of old and new. On hand you have Tokyo, neon lights blazing and a futuristic skyline out of a Luc Besson movie. Then you hop on the Shinkansen, the world’s most advanced railway system (which is 50 years old this year!) to Kanazawa and suddenly find yourself in a different Japan. Walking around the perfectly preserved (city was spared during WWII) Edo era merchant houses of Higashichaya, the city’s Samurai district is a walk back in time to a feudal Japan.

A growing number of big brands in all sectors not just travel are working with bloggers (those Sainsbury’s ads with English Mum for example). Why do you think working with bloggers is so appealing now?

I think a small but growing number of bloggers are becoming brands in their own respect. They key factors at play is that we each have a distinctive but loyal following that is very attractive to the big brands. Plus, we know our readers and interact with them on a daily basis across a variety of communication channels. Bloggers are seeing (and in many places picking) the trends before they emerge and are in the perfect place to give brands some unique insights that could help shape the future of their marketing strategy.

Why are you going to win the vote?

Because I had the best time out all of them? Ha ha. Drinking sake at 11am was hard work! Seriously. We are all winners in many respects working on this fantastic project. I’d like to think we all did a good job and showed viewers a very unique, different side to Japan.

What can other tourist boards learn from what Japan is doing?

I think they can learn a lot. Destination marketing is a bit stale and a few people are willing to experiment and try something new. Tourism boards need to look beyond the press trip model and find new ways of harnessing the creative potential of bloggers. Trust us to tell the story of your destination. Japanese National Tourism Organisation also had a great partner in Lonely Planet. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort into identifying and working with the best travel bloggers out there as part of their Pathfinder programme.

Tagged , , , .

Mark Frary is co-founder of Travel Perspective, a social and digital consultancy working with travel companies and tourism organisations to create successful marketing campaigns He is an author and writer specialising in travel, social media and technology. He writes regularly for The Times and has written for many other publications including the Evening Standard, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Express, Food & Travel, ABTA magazine, the easyJet magazine and Teletext.  Mark also gives expert advice to leisure and business travel companies on their social media and communications strategies and is the co-founder of Social Travel Market, an annual conference on the use of social media in travel at World Travel Market. He is the author of seven books including The Origins of the Universe for Dummies and is currently working on a biography of the ski pioneer Erna Low. Mark lives in Ampthill in Bedfordshire, UK with his wife and three children. www.travelperspective.co.uk

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *