All Nippon Airways prides itself in carrying passengers to and from Japan in style. With hubs at both Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita, the airline has a significant presence in the capital of Japan. Nonetheless, it’s not all about metropolis tourism for the company. After international passenger traffic returns to Japan, the carrier is eager for passengers to explore wonders across its country.
Smashing tourism records
Simple Flying recently caught up with ANA Country Sales Manager, UK & Ireland Julie Murphy. She explained how international tourism was high on the agenda for Japan’s government before the pandemic. As a result, the airline ensured that it was ready to meet the increase in demand in the years before the global health crisis.
During the mid-90s, there were fewer than five million inbound non-Japanese passport holders. Traditionally, Japanese residents would be encouraged to travel domestically to contribute toward the GDP. However, the nation’s aging and declining population caused a shift of focus to inbound tourism. Part of this strategy was bidding for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic Games. The original mission was for 20 million yearly visitors by 2020. Impressively, this target was smashed by 2016.
Murphy shared how the ambitions increased and that Japan is still committed to the tourism sector:
“The number raised to 40 million, and definitely, pre pandemic, the goal of 40 million was on target, with another target of 60 million by 2030. So, in the mid-90s, we went from a generation of less than five million visitors, aspiring to 60 million – that’s a massive adjustment in the thought process of tourism. Then along came the pandemic and the borders closed. I believe the intention from the government is to reinvest, that they don’t want to change those targets, and they will look at different strategies to do that. That’s part of our business preparedness. We fly from Europe to our two hubs in Tokyo, then we fly all over Japan. What we try to adopt as a strategy is ‘Tokyo and Beyond.’”
While the Rugby World Cup was a hit, the Olympics saw a lack of fans flying in due to the stringent restrictions. General tourism has been essentially suspended since early 2020. There are also strict conditions for those who are allowed to enter the country. However, there are higher hopes for 2022 due to global vaccination rollouts. There have been hints for a return of some sort of consistent international travel by the second quarter of next year.
With the market transitioning into a post-pandemic travel period, as a business, ANA recognizes that it needs to be agile. The firm launched ANA Care Promise in a bid to make passenger travel safe and relaxing as much as possible. Several measures continue to be introduced as part of this program. For instance, On November 12th, the airline expanded its PCR testing service for passengers departing from Japan to ensure that they are able to meet entry and quarantine guidelines at their destinations.
Then, on November 15th, changes were made to the boarding process to prevent crowding in the aisle and other areas of the cabin. The airline boards aisle seat passengers first, then middle seats, then aisle seats.
Building up corporate travel will take time, and Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) traffic will be the first segment to be able to travel freely into the hubs of Japan and then onward to their families. Passengers across the globe haven’t been able to see their families for nearly two years, and once there is a relaxation of requirements in this field, there will be an influx of those keen to see their loved ones.
So much to see
Nonetheless, the development of sustainable tourism is a focus of ANA and the Japanese tourism board. Pre-pandemic, ANA’s non-Japanese customers were flying robustly. ANA highlights that this factor is a reflection of how the business has been adapting. Despite these previous triumphs, Japan is an unexplored destination for leisure purposes, and it is very much a go-to aspirational destination. ANA has tried to adapt its model to meet the changing needs of the customers and is determined to take the international community to these unexplored wonders.
Murphy explains how ANA is combing domestic and international operations with the following.
“When we are looking at the data, Japan is more than a one-stop or one-triangle destination. So, going into Tokyo, doing the Golden Triangle, going to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and all those places that you’re going to travel to. If you go to the south, it’s nearer to Taiwan than it is Tokyo. So, it’s a completely different experience. And in the North, the powdery snow is popular with snowboarders in the Southern Hemisphere. However, people from Europe tend to stay in the continent or go to the United States for winter sports. It’s about having a different perspective and some of that has to be driven by the tourism board and how they sell Japan as a destination. We are happy to work with them where we can.”
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With a subtropical climate in the south and skiing conditions in the north, the domestic network is something that Japan’s carriers have been concentrating on during the downtime. There is a population of 125 million people across the country’s 6,852 islands. Even though activity has continued in this market, operations have been rocked during different periods of the pandemic amid domestic restrictions.
2022 is fast approaching. So, the focus for Murphy and her department is about having the agility to return to business. This motive is part of ANA’s broader investments, such as its Care Promise initiative. Regardless of where the traffic is, the airline and Japan’s wider aviation industry will be keen to welcome additional passengers in the new year.
What are your thoughts about how All Nippon Airways is adapting amid the pandemic? What do you make of the airline’s hopes for 2022? Let us know what you think of the overall plans in the comment section.