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  • Gaby Doman

Could Wellness Reinvigorate Japan’s Travel Industry?

A woman looks out of shoji sliding doors at a Japanese garden in autumn

Masaaki Komori, Unsplash

As the Asia Pacific region slowly reopens to tourism, it is becoming increasingly apparent the travel landscape has changed dramatically and that the industry cannot just pick up from where it left off. Business travel is leading the way in Japan, one of the world’s most cautious countries to reopen, where heavy restrictions on recreational travelers still apply. Luxurique CEO, Naomi Mano believes wellness in MICE travel could be a powerful first step to reinvigorating Japan’s travel industry. 

Earlier this month, PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Destination Marketing Forum 2022, held in Hat Yai, Thailand, brought together 300 of the most prominent players in the travel industry. The forum’s theme of “building back sustainably through cultural heritage and community-based tourism,” gave key opinion leaders a platform to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities these changes bring.  

A pair of hands holding a cup of matcha tea

Motoki Tonn, Unsplash

Mano, who is also the President of Japan MICE Association, was honored to be invited as one of 25 speakers at the prestigious event. In her panel discussion, FOCUS on MICE: The changing world of MICE, Mano discussed how this sector is leading the tourism industry as it reopens worldwide. 

She predicted that a notable global MICE trend would be wellness. The stresses of the pandemic made many of us reassess our priorities, and self-care and regeneration became a hot topic. In response, the world’s top employers emphasize remote or hybrid work models, mental health days, and wellness-based incentive trips. 

A giant Buddha statue

Charles Deluvio, Unsplash

Mano said that unique wellness experiences, coupled with a growing demand for its borders to fully reopen poses a huge opportunity for Japan. Japan’s wellness sector is an often-underplayed strength with cultural assets that span the whole spectrum. A day of hiking, skiing, or rafting can be followed by a soothing massage or bathing in mineral-rich onsen waters to ease aching muscles. Alternatively, you can embrace Japan’s Shinto roots by indulging in more spiritually led activities, like shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) or eating vegan shojin ryori, Buddhist monk cuisine, meditating, or visiting Zen temples.

Japan already has a culture of wellness, supported by a wealth of activities and experiences. In fact, the southern islands of Okinawa have been identified as one of five global “blue zones”, where people live for the longest and are the healthiest.

Chopsticks holding a piece of sushi

Helga Christina, Unsplash

If we can harness Japan’s health-giving assets and market them effectively, we will give Japan the opportunity to thrive in this new era of travel. 

Mano spoke at this event alongside other high-level travel executives, including Montakarn Suvanatap Kittipaisalsilp, Programme Officer for Culture at UNESCO Bangkok, Nicola Eliot, Vice President of BBC StoryWorks, Noredah Othman CEO of Sabah Tourism Executive Board, PATA and Audra Morrice, host, and judge of MasterChef Asia/ Singapore.


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