Almost one-third of Hong Kong people have been to Japan, and more than half of these have visited the country at least four times. This is an impressive statistic, especially given that there are so many other attractive holiday destinations within a few hours flying time of Hong Kong.
So what is the secret to Japan’s tourism success? At the Chamber’s Digital Travel Forum on 28 March, Yoshiko Iwamoto, director of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), explained how the country actively uses digital methods to stay ahead of the curve – in marketing and in improving the travel experience for visitors.
For example, it uses Facebook promotions to appeal directly to the Hong Kong market. JNTO also developed the Japan Official Travel App, which offers a range of language options to make life easier for tourists and to enhance their understanding of the country.
Hong Kong, of course, is another hugely successful tourist destination. And digital now plays a crucial role in providing information to travellers while they are here, explained Tina Chao, General Manager of Marketing at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). She demonstrated how an AI Chatbot can reply to enquiries quickly, and how visitors can use the free audio and video guides on the “My Hong Kong Guide” mobile app by scanning the QR codes in locations like Sham Shui Po.
HKTB has also used augmented reality in its AR Time Travel project at the Sky100 observation deck in the ICC. This high-tech video lets visitors immerse themselves in the different neighbourhoods of old Hong Kong.
The tourism sector was among the first to be disrupted by the internet, as consumers found that they could easily research and book their holidays online.
Two companies that successfully tapped into this change are Trip.com and Airbnb. But even these giants of the online travel sector are not taking their success for granted, as the demands and expectations of travellers continue to evolve.
Hillman Lam, General Manager for Hong Kong, Taiwan and International Business at Trip.com, said that the offerings of online travel agents – and other businesses catering to tourists – need to be more experience-driven as travellers seek more personalized experiences.
Lam also introduced some of the latest AI technology that the company uses to serve its 2 million monthly active users. Trip.com now supports 18 languages, which is helping to increase its global reach.
Mike Orgill, General Manager for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan at Airbnb, agreed that this shift to personalized travel was a major trend. Airbnb’s big data has revealed that travellers are increasingly interested in visiting non-traditional destinations. They are also seeking more wellness-related experiences, including quirky and fun activities like Silent Disco Yoga.
Orgill also noted that Hong Kong is a very fast-growing market for Airbnb, with rapidly increasing user numbers.