Japan Tourism at Matta Fair

JNTO Matta Fair
Over the years, many tourism boards have been actively participating at Malaysia's largest consumer travel fair called Matta Fair. Countries from around the region are mostly engaged in this fair while those from the far east have also taken advantage by participating. 

Among the countries, Japan has been one of the aggressive ones that have been taking part for many years. Not only that, they have gathered much research and behaviours of the local Malaysian consumers and have adapted a strong approach to inviting Malaysians to visit Japan.

Matta Fair Japan Tourism Booth
The main Japan Booth at the Matta Fair 2017
Since 2007, I have been a avid visitor to the travel fair as I have been writing much about the Matta Fair, providing information to consumers, sharing tips and other information that is related to travel or buying travel packages. 

For ten solid years, I have also seen the changes in trends among the travelers and in the last five years, the digital and online world has taken over most of the sales from the Matta Fair. This is due mainly to the millennials or the younger generation, who believe in the free independent travel or FIT as the industry calls it.

Osaka Gastronomy Tourism
Targeting the food travelers, Kansai Tourism had a Gastronomy experience to offer
JNTO at Matta Fair Malaysia

The Japan National Tourism Organisation or JNTO in short, saw this back then and took advantage of the change, but in a slow and steady concept. When you look back 10 years ago, it was the Chinese community from Malaysia that loved to visit Japan, but all this changed when AirAsia opened a direct route into Tokyo, then Osaka and Sapporo. 

With the easy and cheap direct access into Japan, this opened up more opportunities for other races in Malaysia to visit Japan. And when social media boomed in the last five to six years ago, the Malay market started to look at the far east, and Japan was one of the preferred destinations. 

A huge thanks goes to social media as it was the biggest factor that assisted in making up the travelers minds. Blog articles played an important role as they were shared online on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Wakayama Prefecture Matta Fair
The team from the Wakayama Prefecture at Matta Fair
JNTO saw the importance of this and started to embark on a digital approach towards the Muslim consumers. Because of the steep increase in Muslim travelers from Malaysia, discussions were held in order to cater to this growing market. Back then, Japan was barely or not ready for Muslim travelers, hence they started to incorporate Muslim friendly packages. 

By doing this, a number of tourism players all around Japan were encouraged to accommodate the Muslim friendly facilities to cater to this market. And today, Japan can boast of quite a number of Muslim friendly destinations, namely Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and even in Hokkaido.

Jalan Jalan Chiba
Chiba Prefecture with their Jalan Jalan Chiba campaign at Matta Fair
Purpose of Japan Tourism at Matta Fair

In the last few years during the Matta Fair, I must have seen a ten fold increase in the Malaysian Muslims visiting the Japan booth at the fair. When inspecting the products sold, brochures with Muslim Friendly headlines were prominent in destinations around Japan. 

There were even flyers printed in Malay, to cater to the Malay speaking community. Prices were generally about the same as other normal packages, or cheaper, but the selections were pretty diverse. 

You should know that the Japan Tourism booth is there for promotional purposes and they do not sell any tour packages. JNTO and the prefectures or other Japanese businesses are there to promote the destinations. When a consumer wants to buy a package, they need to proceed to a travel agent that sells the Japanese travel packages.

Malaysia  Don Quijote
Even Don Quijote was present at the last Matta Fair in Malaysia
Japan Exhibitors at Matta Fair September 2017
1. VISONDATA (M) SDN BHD (Wi-Fi)
2. Okayama City & Maniwa City (Local government)
3. KANSAI Tourism Bureau (Local government)
4. TOHOKU (Local government)
5. Hokkaido Otaru City (Local government)
6. IBARAKI PREFECTURE (Local government)
7. OKINAWA / 冲绳 (Local government)
8. CHIBA PREFECTURE (Local government)
9. EAST JAPAN RAILWAY COMPANY (Transportation)
10. Tokyu Hotels (Accommodation)
11. GIFU / JR-CENTRAL (Local government / Transportation)
12. WEST JAPAN RAILWAY COMPANY (Transportation)
13. Gastronomy Tourism in Osaka Kansai (Local government)
14. AEON HOKKAIDO (Retailer)
15. WASHINGTON HOTEL & HOTEL GRACERY (Accommodation)
16. Hokkaido Tourism Organization (Local government)
17. Prince Hotels & Resorts / Seibu Railway (Accommodation)
18. Shinjuku, Hakone, Enoshima, Kamakura ~Odakyu Group~ (Transportation)
19. WAKAYAMA (Local government)
20. STUDY in JAPAN (Education)
21. Don Quijote (Retailer)

Maniwa Tourism Matta Fair
The team from Okayama and Maniwa City at their booth during Matta Fair
Catering to the Muslim Friendly Market

One thing that Japan Tourism learned was that the younger generation Malay community loved to travel in groups of friends or with families. And they also preferred a homestay accommodation or Ryokan compared to a hotel, mainly due to the pricing factor. 

But these statistics was based on a larger percentage, versus the city Malay community which preferred a more general kind of vacation, staying at hotels or resorts. With this, the Japanese prefectures had a simple guideline - Muslim friendly travel. 

Meeting were held with JNTO, the local prefecture offices and the industry players all over Japan. They saw the potential of huge numbers of Muslims traveling the world and wanted to tap into this market. Remember, there is also Indonesia and Brunei apart from Malaysia, so why not cater to this.

Matta Fair Kansai Tourism Board
Kansai Tourism Board team at the Matta Fair in Malaysia
Things did not happen overnight, but after a few years, the industry players in Japan saw potential in this specialized market and some of them decided to go Muslim friendly. Airports were also a key role in this as these would be the first entry point for the Muslim travelers.

One of them is no other than the Kansai Osaka Airport, which incorporated Halal and Muslim friendly restaurants in the airport. They also added a Muslim prayer room in the airport for the convenience of Muslim travelers. 

Another airport to follow suit is the Chubu Centrair Airport in Nagoya which also provided Muslim friendly services and food in the airport facilities. This was done in 2014 and has provided ease for Muslim travelers into this region of Japan.

Japan Muslim Friendly Package Matta Fair
Focus was paid on Muslim friendly destinations in Japan
Japan Muslim Friendly Travel at Matta Fair

With all the steps being looked into carefully, Japan Tourism soon saw an increase of Muslim travellers into the country and eventually more businesses started to adapt the Muslim friendly approach by offering services that were accepted. 

At the recent Matta Fair 2017, the number of prefectures that catered to Muslim travelers had increased. One of them, the Kanagawa Prefecture which is just south of Tokyo, which is now becoming one of the preferred destinations for Muslim travelers.

Matta Fair Kanagawa
The team from Kanagawa at their booth
Kanagawa Prefecture has also been participating at the Matta Fair as they are quite well known for many interesting tourism attractions. Popular places around Kanagawa include Yokohama, Kawasaki, Kamakura, Fujisawa, Hakone, Odawara and Oyama. 

Other prefectures that are popular include Kyoto, which is also a very popular Muslim friendly destination and Osaka. Currently, the cheapest way to Kyoto is also from a new train system that is budget friendly.

Matta Fair Odakyu Malaysia
Odakyu Group promoting their train services between popular cities in Japan
JNTO at MATTA Fair 2018

For the next Matta Fair 2018, you can expect more participation from different prefectures around Japan, and a majority of them will be promoting the Muslim friendly places. It is at the Japan booth that you will get the best and up to date information about the Muslim friendly services and Halal guide to Japan. 

Japan Tourism's participation at Matta Fair in Malaysia has definitely changed the travel landscape for Muslim travelers and also general travelers to Japan in the last five years. More emphasis has been put onto budget traveling as the consumer trends are growing fast in this area.

Japan Walker Magazine Malaysia
Japan Walker SEA promoting their magazine during the Matta Fair
Ryokan's have been one of the most popular accommodations while train travel from city to city is gaining popularity. More travelers are now visiting a few places rather than just one city like in the old days. Current generation  travelers prefer to explore on their own, and hence need information about food, facilities or accommodations. 

This is where Japan Tourism comes in to provide up to date information, which is also translated into Malay, Chinese and English for the ease of the different races. Again, Malaysians as a multi cultural community, prefer different things when they travel, compared to just one race. And Japan Tourism has looked deep into this to cater to each and every race in Malaysia or Southeast Asia. 

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