Now Reports

Kyushu Tourism Survey February 2019: Analytical Report


On the 10th of February 2019 I (Kenji Newton, a recent history graduate from the UK and intern at Fukuoka Now) helped launch a survey called “Kyushu Tourism Survey – (by Fukuoka Now)”. Its purpose was to gather information on tourism in Kyushu, the features and locations people thought made this island special and what Kyushu itself could do to promote them. Largely speaking this was a success, but one that raised some questions. Working within the parameters of an online questionnaire there were of course limitations to what we were able to do, but there are three specific areas which deserve further study.

1. Kyushu is a diverse place with a diverse number of prefectures. Whilst talking about Kyushu as a whole is necessary in a short questionnaire (it also doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of Kyushu itself) and an analysis of the general area can provide some general pointers to improve the tourist experience, what it can’t do is provide specifics for each prefecture to push its own specific tourist agenda. It also doesn’t comment on how well tourists are currently responding to the tourism efforts of a particular prefecture.

2. The answers to this survey were from a largely western audience grouped into large categories (North America, Europe, Australasia/Oceania). While this is a useful bit of information in terms of people being quickly able to give general information which helps inform our analysis of certain trends, it doesn’t say what appeals to people from specific countries or indeed how Kyushu is being currently marketed in those specific countries.

3. Categories such as “nature” (an overwhelmingly popular response to appealing attractions in Kyushu) are by design quite general. Whilst this is good for encapsulating a large range of things to do for the purposes of qualitative data, it does not necessarily highlight specific natural beauty and onsen spots in terms of their appeal and marketability. While the comments highlighted some great places, they didn’t necessarily reveal a pattern. This is another one of the limitations of this type of study. This is also the case for categories such as “important” which are fairly nebulous. Because terms like these are general rather than specific they can be easy to access for participants, but they can also be rather vague, “important” and “somewhat important” are subjective terms that can mean different things to different people.

Now I’m not an expert. In fact, I’m nowhere near one! I’m only a recent graduate who is new to Japan, but here’s my own analysis of the data gathered by the survey (an analysis which it should be stated is not Fukuoka Now’s own). This report is a long one, but I hope it contains a bit of value to anyone interested and sparks some additional debate. If you have got any thoughts, leave them in the comments section below as we’d love to see them. We also have to take the time to thank all the kind participants who took part in our survey (at the time of writing there are one hundred and seventy-five of you!), you have all been a great help and very clearly we could not have done this without you.

For those of you who want to get straight to the stats, the shortened version is below, but for those who are gluttons for punishment, the whole report and analysis is at the bottom. Click here.

Demographic statistics of respondents

83.1% – Non-Asian (79.7% Western)
79.2% – Live or have lived in Japan over a year (38.8% over 5 years)
99.4% – Over 21 (2.2% over 61)
63.4% – Live in Kyushu (33.7% live overseas)

Essentialized stats and conclusions

1. Friends from your home town are visiting Japan for their first and maybe only visit! Please prioritize regions since they won’t have time to visit them all (1 being the highest priority, 5 being the lowest):

1) Honshu
2) Kyushu
3) Hokkaido
4) Okinawa
5) Shikoku

2. What are Kyushu’s most appealing attractions to visitors? Rate each one from 1 ~ 5 (1 being highly recommended)
The popularity for each of the following groups of activities can be ranked as the following (looking at the number of “1s” each answer received):

1) Local Food and drinks
2) Hot springs
3) Nature and Outdoor Activities
4) Less crowded (relative to more popular destinations)
5) Affordable
6) Seasonal and Local festivals
7) Cultural experiences/ traditional crafts
8) Historical attractions
9) Urban entertainment/ Shopping

3. What activities or assets should Kyushu promote to attract more visitors from your home country?

The free answers were mostly grouped around nature, local food and cultural festivals. Because cultural festivals ranked low in question two we can assume that those who do like them form a strong attachment.

4. How can Kyushu promote itself more effectively to people in your country? Please rate the methods below.

1) More English language information on websites
2) More social media marketing towards foreigners
3) More English language content on Youtube
4) More English language magazine editorial content
5) More package tours and cooperation with travel agents

This reveals the divide between the importance of new and old media, with new media defined as more important – particularly webpages. However, an overriding importance is placed on language access, English, and other European and Asian languages. This includes restaurants and menus, public transportation, webpages (as a whole) and the creation of native language package tours of Kyushu.

5. What can be done to increase the number of people from your country visiting Kyushu? How important or effective are the following methods?

1) More information on the web
2) More printed English language guides about attractions, transportation and accommodation
3) More and better English signs and information
4) More options of things to do and experience
5) More English speaking staff at hotels, shops, restaurants, etc.

Like question four suggests, language is of overriding importance. This need for native language means that there is a fundamental need for printed English language magazine content. Therefore, old media should not be ignored entirely in favour of new media. To do so would be to ignore the importance of native language platforms. The top priority however is still new media platforms in native languages.

6. Do you think increasing the number of tourists from overseas will be good for Kyushu?

Yes – 82.6%
No – 17.4%

7. Are you concerned about “over tourism” in Fukuoka or Kyushu?

Yes – 37.6%
No – 62.4%

Overall opinion is that while tourism will be good for Kyushu, there are serious concerns that too much tourism will spoil its character as ‘off the beaten path’. Also of concern is the ‘type’ of tourist who will treat Kyushu with enough perceived respect.

8) Has awareness of Fukuoka or Kyushu significantly increased in your home country in recent years?

Yes – 19.1%
No – 46.1%
Not sure – 34.8%

Overall, Kyushu is not growing in the mind of possible tourists abroad. Most comments highlight that only the main cities of Honshu are thought of as tourist destinations.

9) In one very short sentence, describe the appeal of Kyushu as a destination for tourists from your country
The findings from this question largely support what has already been said in questions two, three, six and seven, namely that Kyushu’s appeal is concentrated around: nature, its food and drink culture, its relaxed atmosphere and the fact that it’s “off the beaten track”.

Main Conclusions

• Although not the first region in terms of preference, it is evident that once people reach Kyushu they form a strong attachment to it.
• Kyushu’s main attractions appear to centered around four main things: its natural environment, its food and drink culture, its laid back atmosphere and the fact that it’s “off the beaten track”.
• New media is the most important method of pushing Kyushu’s tourist agenda, and a specific importance is placed on the language accessibility of online platforms.
• Although new media is important, there is most definitely a space for old media in the form of printed, native language guides for attractions and transport.
• While people largely believe that tourism to Kyushu should be increased, there is still the worry of “over tourism”.

 

A Question by Question Analysis

1. Friends from your home town are visiting Japan for their first and maybe only visit! Please prioritize regions since they won’t have time to visit them all (1 being the highest priority, 5 being the lowest).

Looking at the statistics a clear ranking emerges:

1) Honshu
2) Kyushu
3) Hokkaido
4) Okinawa
5) Shikoku

Whilst we should make room for some participant bias, as we assume much of the audience themselves live in or have lived in Kyushu, the fact that Kyushu is second is impressive and should be seen as an indication of the strength of attachment people form with Kyushu when living here. Whilst Kyushu is going to struggle to compete with areas of Honshu like Tokyo and Kyoto which are firmly on the tourist course, it is encouraging to know that Kyushu is thought of as being second, even if the distance to places like Okinawa and Shikoku were highlighted as unappealing.

2. What are Kyushu’s most appealing attractions to visitors? Rate each one from 1 ~ 5 (1 being highly recommended)

The popularity for each of the following groups of activities can be ranked as the following (looking at the number of “1s” each answer received):

1. Local Food & Drinks
2.Hot Springs
3.Nature & outdoor activities
4.Less crowded (relative to more popular destinations)
5.Affordable
6.Seasonal and local Festivals
7.Cultural experiences/ traditional crafts
8.Historical attractions
9.Urban entertainment/ shopping

In retrospect, a better way of reviewing and categorizing all this data would be to create a rating system for each of the numbers to take into account participants’ other answers (e.g. five points for “1”, three points for “2”, two points for “3”, one point for “4” and zero points for “5”), but the current method still provides a clear pattern.

Local food and drink, hot springs and activities centred around nature are the biggest winners here, while historical attractions and urban entertainment/ shopping are the biggest losers. This may be partially explained by the fact that 79.2% of the participants have lived in japan for over a year, as all the categories in the top three are activities that people tend to discover in the long term, while activities like shopping are what some people enjoy when in Japan for only a short time. However, this still shows that Kyushu’s appeal rests on its own particular food and drink culture as well as its natural environment. This can therefore provide a focus for those wishing to market Kyushu to tourists, or even those trying to enjoy Kyushu’s best.

An answer to this question which appeared several times, six in fact, was the warmth of Kyushu’s people in general, as well as in comparison to Honshu. While this is certainly a positive (good job guys!), whether it can be marketed is an entirely different issue.

Several participants also noted there was a lack of an “Accessibility” category. While this would be useful in gauging how easy people think Kyushu is to navigate, it’s not exactly an attraction in itself. A way to resolve this would be perhaps to add a separate question on accessibility e.g. “Do you think Kyushu does enough to be accessible to the average tourist? If not, why not?”

3. What activities or assets should Kyushu promote to attract more visitors from your home country?

This was a free answer question and a lot of responses were grouped around the theme of “nature” and outdoor activities, as well as food and cultural activities. Cultural activities ranked 7th out of nine groups of activities, yet has quite a large presence in the one-hundred and thirty-three answers given here. We can assume then perhaps that those who do rate these cultural experiences and festivals highly, form a strong relationship with them. If this is the case it may be worth looking into putting more strength behind the promotion of these. But fundamentally the main focus is very much on the natural and outdoor activities. While it may have ranked a close third, Kyushu’s natural environ has been something that’s really been seized upon.

Here are some of the answers representative of the trends I’ve picked out:
• Hiking- like the Appalachian Trail is an attraction in America
• Food tours (ramen culture tour), sake/shochu tours
• Local experiences, taiko, sushi making, etc. Aso, sakurajima tours, nagasaki, kagoshima historic links with Europe
• Emphasize off the beaten path character
• The stunning natural sites (that also look great on social media, making it more likely that word will spread organically): i.e. wisteria tunnel in Kitakyushu, Takachiho Gorge, Yakushima (linked to Studio Ghibli’s ‘Princess Mononoke’ film), Kurokawa onsen town, Yame tea fields etc. etc.

4. How can Kyushu promote itself more effectively to people in your country? Please rate the methods below.

The importance of the following methods that Kyushu could use to promote itself are ranked below (ranked by looking at how many counts of “important” they have):

1) More English language information on websites
2) More social media marketing towards foreigners
3) More English language content on Youtube
4) More English language magazine editorial content
5) More package tours and cooperation with travel agents

The results here show a clear divide between new media and old media, with “English language information on websites” being marked as “important” one-hundred and fifty-nine times in comparison with “English language magazine editorial content” which was marked “important” seventy-three times. There is, therefore, a clear preference for platforms which can be accessed online as opposed to those which cannot be accessed online.

However what the comments on this question show is the clear overriding importance of language. This includes English, on the whole it’s recognised as a universal second language, and other Asian and European languages. However, if Kyushu is struggling with English, a language which all of Japan is trying to put greater strength into, it may be unreasonable to ask it to learn other languages too – but the demand seems to be there. The main points identified in need of greater language access are: restaurants and menus, public transportation, webpages (as a whole) and the creation of native language package tours of Kyushu (of course it should be noted that overall package tours seem not to be a priority).

Here are a couple of answers which demonstrate the trends listed above:
• Often there are guided tours to nearby locations. However info about these comprehensive tickets (usually bought at the station) are only available in Japanese. Eg. Yanagawa, Nagasaki
• Always have a professional check the English (or other foreign language) of signs and flyers
• Not only English, do all the above in various European languages
• More English information on public transport and tourist attractions, maps, etc. Online and in brochures for once in Kyushu
• Restaurant menus with descriptions in English – real English
• Adding English information and pictures on google maps

One stands out particularly and is worth printing verbatim:
In connection with “more video content,” have proposed and “open data” approach to the officials in Kumamoto. This would involve government offices collecting and making beautiful, high quality video files available, copyright free, for individuals and/or organizations to use to make videos promoting their own events, activities, etc. There are already places in Japan where this is being done. I think Kyushu should cooperate regionally to make video archives of this kind readily accessible. Actually, this is an idea I got from a TBS (Hodo Tokushu) show broadcast on Nov. 9, 2013. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t seem that much has been done with this idea.

5. What can be done to increase the number of people from your country visiting Kyushu? How important or effective are the following methods?

The following methods to increase the number of people from abroad visiting Kyushu are ranked as follows:

1) More information on the web
2) More printed English language guides about attractions, transportation and accommodation
3) More and better English signs and information
4) More options of things to do and experience
5) More English speaking staff at hotels, shops, restaurants, etc.

Again, like in question four, we see the importance of new age media with “More information on the web” receiving one-hundred and forty counts of “important” opposed to “More printed English language guides about attractions, transportation and accommodation” which received one-hundred and sixteen counts of “important”. However, this is not to say that there is no space for old media at all, clearly if printed media ranks second in importance it has a place in people’s minds when making decisions about tourism and shouldn’t be ignored. Saying this, a lot of the comments revolve around the around the importance of native language web access, so this is certainly a top priority.

A point which is slightly concerning is that more than half of the participants marked “More options of things to do and experience” as “important”. However, this shouldn’t be viewed as a cause of immediate concern, but rather as a problem with the general nature of the term “important”. It is always “important” that there are more things to do, and very few of the comments suggest that there is little to do in Kyushu. Question one also suggests that those who come here form a sense of attachment to it, a phenomenon unusual if there was nothing to do.

The importance of “More and better English signs and information”, marked as “important” one-hundred and eleven times, is clearly displayed in earlier comments on transport, menus and English Language. As a category which concerns itself with the day to day activities of tourists in Kyushu this should not be relegated to a background concern, as its supported by a number of written answers to this question and question four.

The following are a few representative catch copy examples:
• Train lines need stops and announcements in English. Nishitetsu and Subway lines do a great job with this, but JR has yet to implement English (or any other language) on their train lines. That’s very important for foreign tourists
• More English in public transportation
• More digital presence than only printed material (though printed material should also exist)
• Many tourist websites throughout Kyushu have the first page available in english but anything more detailed is still only available in nihongo
• More phone apps that display English or multiple languages

6. Do you think increasing the number of tourists from overseas will be good for Kyushu?

And

7. Are you concerned about “over tourism” in Fukuoka or Kyushu?

These questions have been grouped together because the answers given in them reflect on each other.
When asked “Do you think increasing the number of tourists from overseas will be good for Kyushu?” participants answered:

Yes – 82.6%
No – 17.4%

From this statistic we can suggest that increasing the number of tourists is overall seen as positive, but with a significant minority voicing serious reservations. These reservations are voiced in the responses to the next question. When asked “Are you concerned about over tourism in Fukuoka or Kyushu?” participants answered:

Yes – 37.6%
No – 62.4%

“Over tourism” then is a serious concern which pulls at the overall positive stance over increasing tourism in Kyushu. We can then assume the necessitation of a type of balance in the minds of the participants, to increase the number of tourists, but not turn Kyushu into a “tourist trap”. This is a position reflected in both the comments attached to these questions and the fact that “Less crowded (relative to more popular destinations)” was voted 4th most important in relation to the question “What are Kyushu’s most appealing attractions to visitors?”. A large part of Kyushu’s appeal then relies on the fact that it is “off the beaten track”, and this is reflected in the answers to question nine (which this report will look at in turn).

This is coupled with a well voiced concern surrounding the “right kind of tourist”, that being the kind of tourist whom significant portions of the participants think are acceptable to Kyushu. Comments concerning these types of tourists focus on aspects like “rudeness”, “temporary, intense crowds” and these groups being “noisy”. Thus part of this concern with “over tourism” is also a concern with the possibility that these sort of tourists will increase in number.

As a side-note this is clearly, although it’s veiled, pointing a finger at Chinese tourists who come in larger groups. While this is indicative of an element of xenophobia on part of the participants, it is important in their mind. However, unless you ban “these kind of people” from tourist locations these comments are just shouting into the void.

Here are a number of representative comments in answer to both questions:
• The appeal of Kyushu is that it is NOT overcrowded with tourists, especially tour groups
• A certain level of tourism is obviously good for the economy but I also enjoyed Kyushu because it wasn’t as crowded as Tokyo, or as “touristy”. Finding a balance will be difficult but again that will be from tailoring your offerings
• In terms of revenue, perhaps. But one of the appeals of Kyushu is that it’s “the road less traveled” by Westerners visiting Japan, and I think it’s important to maintain that (or at the very least the illusion of that)
• Tourism is not ecological and ends in destroying it all. We should preserve Kyushu’s wildness and beauty
• Rude, patronizing tourists
• Kyushu attracts more and more tourist every year and it’s fantastic but because of bad mannered people some places such as Nanzoin or Komyozen-ji in Dazaifu became very strict. For example back in 2012 people could visit the front garden of Komyozen-ji and now even photos are forbidden. What a waste!

8) Has awareness of Fukuoka or Kyushu significantly increased in your home country in recent years?

In response to this question participants answered in the following way:

Yes – 19.1%
No – 46.1%
Not sure – 34.8%

80.9% of the participants have answered that Kyushu is not on the rise in the minds of possible tourists in their home country, we can therefore see that there is a general need to promote Kyushu as a destination in itself, as currently it is not being achieved as well as it could be. Of the comments that have been left here (thirty-three), the vast majority of them highlight that Kyushu isn’t thought of particularly as a tourist destination in their home country. This qualitative evidence supports the quantitative evidence the answers to this question already provide. Interestingly, of the thirty-three comments only one referenced the Rugby World Cup.

Answers indicative of trends above:
• Except, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Japanese cities are not known in Sweden at all
• There is nothing that happens in Fukuoka or even Kyushu that we are talking about in France. Then French people go first to Honshu and have no time or no curiosity to go South
• Rugby World Cup has really increased Kyushu’s presence overseas
• People know Nagasaki, and the next Godzilla is in Hakata, I think, but no one knows “Kyushu”

9) In one very short sentence, describe the appeal of Kyushu as a destination for tourists from your country

The findings from this question largely support what has already been said in questions two, three, six and seven, namely that Kyushu’s appeal is concentrated around: nature, its food and drink culture, its relaxed atmosphere and the fact that it’s “off the beaten track”. In terms of marketing, this provides a general plan of action of what to target for tourism campaigns.

The phrase “Traditional Japan” is one used repeatedly in participants’ responses to this question. While it may function as a good banner to sell tourism under, it’s quite vague and never necessarily explained. Indeed it could mean a number of things, the fact that it’s less crowded than Honshu, traditional culture, natural beauty, etc. Therefore I personally wouldn’t put too much faith in it as a descriptive term.

Here are some catch copy examples:
• The hidden get away area on the edge of Japan
• Wonderful food, nature and crafts
• Experience the ‘real’ Japan before everyone else does
• An island full of hidden treasures, breathtaking natural sights, and rich culture
• Real Japan, real people, real food
• Delightful food, history, and nature
• Kyushu: the road less traveled
• Friendly, beautiful and affordable
• Green, clean, and great hospitality!
• Great food, cheap prices, and beautiful nature
• It’s all the things people love about Japan, off the beaten path
• Kyushu is the picture of “traditional Japan” but also has the most ties to the rest of the world

Overall things to take away

• Although not the first region in terms of preference, it is evident that once people reach Kyushu they form a strong attachment to it.
• Kyushu’s main attractions appear to centered around four main things: its natural environment, its food and drink culture, its laid back atmosphere and the fact that it’s “off the beaten track”.
• New media is the most important method of pushing Kyushu’s tourist agenda, and a specific importance is placed on the language accessibility of online platforms. This is a top priority. While there is an audience for other languages other than English, one cannot expect the tourism industry to become proficient in all languages at once.
• Although new media is important, there is most definitely a space for old media in the form of printed, native language guides for attractions and transport.
• The above two points should be a supplement to the overall effort to overcome the language barrier, which should also be a top priority. This should be done online, in printed material, in tour organization and in areas of a tourist’s everyday experience such as on transport, restaurant menus, signage, etc.
• While people largely believe that tourism to Kyushu should be increased, there is still the worry of “over tourism”. Therefore tourism campaigns should be pursued with the fact that one of Kyushu’s main selling points is that it is not as crowded with tourists as Honshu in mind.

Report by Kenji Newton

Comments are welcomed, use the form below:

Category
Others
Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Mar 7, 2019 / Last Updated: Mar 7, 2019

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