Agent Q&A Japan

WITH bookings to Japan sky-rocketing, travelBulletin caught up with personal travel manager Briony Bullard to get the low-down the country and how agents can reap some of the benefits of selling this intriguing destination.

Is there much interest among Australians for travel to Japan?

Australians, as travellers, have had a fascination with Japan for many years. It has become incredibly popular with skiers in the last five years offering some of the best powder around. People are also fascinated with the cultural and historic aspects of the country that provide an insight into this wonderful destination.

Which areas are most popular?

For skiing, Hakuba, Niseko and also Nozawa Onsen. For general tourism on Honshu, the main island, Tokyo, Mt Fuji and Hakone, Kyoto, Takayama and Hiroshima. Hokkaido (the north island) is also gaining popularity as there are now cruises that circle the island allowing travellers to see many different ports. Kyushu in the Southern Island also has some great areas to visit including Beppu and Mt Aso and you can pay a visit to Nagasaki.

What are the must see highlights for first time travellers?

For first time travellers I recommend using Tokyo and Kyoto as a base as there are many places that can be accessed on a day trip using the Japan Rail Pass.

What sort of travellers are visiting Japan?

Japan attracts many age groups and different budget levels. It is suitable for independent travel as well as guided holidays.

Is there any particular time of year that is best or most popular to travel to Japan?

Preferred times to travel are May and October for general tourism. The summer (June to August) is really hot and humid, so I tend to suggest people avoid those months. For cherry blossoms, the guideline is late March in the deep south to mid April in the north, but this is at the mercy of mother nature. Ski season is from December to March. It is wise to avoid Golden Week which is approximately 29 April to 5 May. This is when most Japanese will travel and it makes for a very busy time.

What should an agent consider when selling Japan?

One of the most important things you need to know is that English is not widely spoken and not widely understood despite many people learning it at school.

Rooms are very small in most hotels, please be mindful of this. For clients who like to travel independently, a Japan Rail Pass is a must. If you aren’t too savvy with knowledge of the country itself, aren’t confident with setting up an FIT itinerary for Japan or your clients aren’t keen on negotiating the language barrier then consider offering guided holidays.