Visit Finland Japan was very active in various joint promotional initiatives, consumer sauna campaign, B2B buyer meets seller events and PR programs. As a result, the annual overnight showed a healthy 4.0% growth. We were so excited about the commencement of Finnair’s new 2 time weekly Helsinki/Sapporo route back in December. The statistics in January 2020 continued to look very strong with impressive 19.0% increase. The Tokyo Olympic year 2020 was simply going to be an amazing year… until the outbreak of COVID-19. Everything changed dramatically.
It has been almost a month since the Japanese government made the decision to step up the corrective measures as an attempt to contain the further spread of the COVID-19 virus. Schools have been closed, amusement parks got shut down and office workers shifted to the remote working mode. We saw some positive signs and progress in Japan as well as in China, the virus rapidly spread across Europe last week. WHO has started to describe the status as pandemic. Some European countries have declared the state of emergency. The impact on the tourism industry is devastating. At this point in time, there is not much proactive things we could do except for the information and crisis management.
When Japan suffered major casualties from the earthquake and tsunami on 11th March, 2011, the Japanese inbound tourism hit the very bottom due to the concerns over radiation from the damaged Nuclear power plants. We thought it was going to take forever to bring the market back. We were all left feeling hopeless and pessimistic back then, but we never gave up. Japanese inbound went back on the growth trend after 2 years. Of course the situation we are facing now is a lot different from the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, there is always silver lining to everything as people say in difficult times. There is a good story between the last Tokyo Olympics 1964 and recent sauna culture boom in Japan. It was 1964 Games where the team Finland brought an authentic Finnish sauna to the athlete village. Japanese media were so excited about the stove filled with lots of heated stones and löyly style bathing. This year marks the 55th anniversary since the sauna culture spread across Japan. We are not certain whether the Olympics will take place this year at this time. We can say this for sure that the sauna culture trend and admiration for Finnish lifestyle in Japan will continue. After all, the essential for travel is safety, security and cleanliness. Finland tops among the longhaul destinations. Let’s hang in there, and wait for the right time to implement recovery initiatives. In the meantime, we wish you all for a good hygiene practice and good health.