Japan’s tourism industry is looking for ways to attract LGBT visitors from overseas and take advantage of their tendency to spend more than average tourists.
Tourism-related businesses all over the world are “scrambling” to attract LGBT travelers, who have “considerable purchasing and spending power,” said Shintaro Koizumi, chief executive of Out Japan Co., a Tokyo-based marketing firm conducting seminars and other programs to support corporate clients seeking to learn how to handle issues involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
With data showing that LGBT tourists spend about twice as much as average travelers, hotels and other accommodation facilities in Japan are stepping up efforts to appeal to them. The move is in line with a government target of attracting 40 million foreign tourists in 2020, up from 28.69 million in 2017, estimating total spending of ¥8 trillion during their stays, up from ¥4.42 trillion.
When American tourists visit Japan for 10 days, an average travel agency arranges tours that cost them $3,500 to $4,000 each, excluding airfare, according to industry officials. In contrast, trip arrangements made by a travel agency catering to LGBT clients generally cost more than $7,000.
“A same-sex couple is a double-income one and has more money to spend,” said Koizumi, who himself is gay.
Among other factors, LGBT tourists tend to post messages on social media and have a high chance of revisiting places they like, Koizumi said.
The Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, aims to be LGBT tourism-friendly under its business philosophy of serving as a “plaza visited by wide-ranging kinds of people.”
In January, the Keio Plaza held a seminar on LGBT tourism for 150 managerial staff and other workers. When a participant questioned how to respond when asked directions to the lavatory, the lecturer recommended the use of universal restrooms.
Overseas visitors, coming from more than 100 foreign countries, account for 75 percent of guests at the Keio Plaza.
“We want to offer services by learning what is comfortable for each customer,” said Junko Saito, deputy marketing director of the hotel, noting that guests have varying senses of value and tastes. The acceptance of LGBT tourism is part of the hotel’s business philosophy, Saito said.
The number of local governments and accommodation facilities friendly to LGBT tourism is expected to increase.
Japan is open to various kinds of visitors as a “wonderful base for services,” Koizumi said.
To maintain this base, “I hope (the Japanese tourism industry) will recognize the presence of LGBT people and constantly consider how best to serve them,” he said.