Japan retailers, hotels woo repeat visitors

Japan retailers, hotels woo repeat visitors

TOKYO - Japanese department stores and high-end hotels are competing for the loyalty of wealthy foreign travelers who make repeat trips to the country.

Takashimaya, an Osaka-based department store operator, is set to issue "VIP membership" cards at the end of May. Foreign customers who come in regularly or spend a lot will be granted the status. Perks will include updates on new products via email and other means, as well as in-store interpretation and special concierge services.

Currently, sales to foreign visitors account for 6 per cent of Takashimaya's total. At some locations, however, the ratio approaches 20 per cent. The company sees the membership programme as a way to make the most of this customer base.

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In a survey by the Japan Tourism Agency, 11 per cent of the foreign tourists who came to Japan last year for sightseeing and leisure said they had visited the country more than 10 times. The ratio was up about 3 percentage points from 2012. Put another way, repeat visitors are helping to fuel the overall increase in tourism.

In fiscal 2014, which ended in March, Japan welcomed a record 14.67 million foreign tourists, a 34 per cent jump on the year. It was the third straight annual increase.

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