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Attracting the most valuable travellers

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Who are most valuable and important groups of travellers to attract from Europe and the USA? We've profiled six key groups. In the UK, one of these, Mature Explorers, have now all received their Covid-19 vaccine and are making their travel plans.

Well-off couples in their fifties and early sixties are the most significant group for long-haul holidays. Their children have grown up and are either working or at university.

Without young children they are keen to ‘travel’, not simply to take ‘sun and sand’ holidays or to indulge youngsters at Disneyland in Paris or Florida. The importance of this group was increased further in the UK in 2015 when new pensions legislation was introduced. This allowed anyone over the age of 55 to take 25% of their pension tax-free. Research amongst this group has shown that spending this money on travel is one of the most popular choices (usually after home improvements).

Within this group of mature explorers there are different motivations for travel. Japan-San has defined these as ‘Country Tickers’, ‘Cultural Travellers’, ‘Japanophiles’, and ‘Nature & Wildlife’.


•Couples aged 50 – 64 years

•Household income of at least JPY 6m / annum

•Most are still working (not retired)

•Booking Method: Tour Operator/Travel Agent

•Travel Type: FIT/Group

•Estimated Market Size: - UK 6 million - US 28 million - Fr 5 million - Ger 6 million

The motivations of this important group are varied. Each of the following groups offer significant opportunities for travel to Japan.

‘Country Tickers’

They are working through a wish-list of countries to visit. Because they have many new countries on the list, they will only visit each country once and their itinerary will invariably focus only on the ‘highlights’ and ‘must-see’ sights and experiences.

‘The Cultural Travellers’

This group love learning about the places they travel to. This not only applies to Japanese history, but modern society and everyday life, crafts, art, religion and cuisine. There may also particular motivation to travel to Japan – a specific interest in Japanese aesthetics, culture, arts & literature. This group will be keen to enjoy the benefits of English and French or German-speaking guides.

‘Nature & Wildlife’ Enthusiasts

Although this group may include short visits to the main sites in a Japan itinerary, their primary motivation will be to access the comparatively unknown, green spaces of Japan. They will be very eager to avoid crowded locations are looking for truly untouched natural areas for soft adventure pursuits such a trekking or cycling.


A notable sub-set of Japan travellers, the real Japan enthusiasts. They have travelled to Japan several times before, have already ‘ticked off’ the main sights and are now looking for a ‘deeper dive’ to find something more original.

Marketing to this group

Tailor-make to interests

Country tickers: Established tour operators will have loyal frequent travellers who will be looking to travel to Japan. They will use to same tour operator to help them travel all around the world. These clients will usually do ‘mainstream’ Japan exploring but education and marketing support to tour operators means additional areas, attractions and experiences in or around the “golden route” can be included in itineraries.

Tour Operator focus

The 50 - 64 age group are most likely to choose to travel with a tour operator. Very few will speak any Japanese and the high percentage of first time visitors means that they are keen to have the experience and support of a travel company. For many this will mean group tours. Those with more money to spend will choose a small group holiday (usually up to 12 people).

Marketing Strategy

Country tickers: Support tour operators (ideally with Co-operative funding) with ‘mainstream’ Japan itineraries. Established tour operators will have loyal frequent travellers who will be looking to travel to Japan.

Cultural Travelers: Cultural travellers can be reached through special interest campaigns focusing on particularly unique cultural highlights or practices of a particular area. Focusing promotional activities on tour operators who have a strong cultural focus is effective; such niche operators exist in all key markets. Help them deliver sophisticated, deep cultural itineraries through having compelling concepts, stories and novel experiences to sell.

Japanophiles: Many of these travellers will have the knowledge and confidence to organise and book their own trip to Japan using an OTA. For these clients, clear information through the main travel guidebooks/websites is useful. Compelling stories through key consumer media outlets is also effective. Experiences must be very well presented on OTAs also.

Others clients will have built a strong relationship with a tour operator specialising in Japan and will go back to them for further inspiration on the next part of Japan to explore. For this market it’s important to work closely with DMC’s and Tour Operators through education and marketing support so they can offer new, interesting experiences and itineraries to these clients.

Nature & Wildlife: Promotion via tour operators is very effective for this audience as they are likely to require support to help them access more rural parts of Japan. This means that tour operators will need education and product development guidance to build more unusual itineraries that will match the interests of these clients. As Japan is not very well known for its nature spots it is a good idea to work on marketing campaigns with tour operators, particular via social media to drive consumer interest and demand.

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