Travel companies can join a free fam trip before or after the ABTA Travel Convention.
This year will see a deepening of cultural relations between Japan and the UK as the Japan-UK Season of Culture unfolds into 2020, which coincides with Japan hosting two sporting events: the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.
The Far East nation is also hosting the annual ABTA Travel Convention this year with its host partners, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO), the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Prince Hotels & Resorts. The convention takes place October 7-9 in Tokyo.
More than 333,000 UK citizens visited Japan last year – the highest inbound number from Europe – and annual growth in footfall stands at nearly 8 per cent.
In an age when the Far East doesn’t seem so far, Japan’s hospitality, cuisine, aesthetic, eccentricity and inimitable fusion of future and tradition continue to captivate travellers who are finding the country to be more accessible than ever before.
According to the Post Office Holiday Money Report, Tokyo is one of the most attractive long-haul destinations for the UK market in terms of price. The city offers a wide range of accommodation options and choice of dining venues.
The language barrier is also being broken: English is widely implemented on signage, at stations, in announcements and in advanced translation apps. Japan prides itself on hospitality, and locals are happy to pause to assist visitors.
Japan is home to 126 million people, many of whom live in some of the most densely populated and dynamic cities in the world. Discover the gleaming skyscrapers of Nagoya, the retro sci-fi playground of Osaka and the food and beer capital of Sapporo.
Nature enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that more than 70 per cent of Japan is mountainous, and visitors can criss-cross the country aboard the high-speed bullet trains, visiting the mega-cities nestled amid vast swathes of impressive natural landscapes that stretch more than 3,000km from north to south.
The country is a year-round destination. In October, Japan comes ablaze with reds, golds and oranges as the leaves begin to turn in colour at the advent of autumn. As February draws to a close, the famous cherry blossoms start to sweep up the country from south to north, ushering in spring. Increasing amounts of tourists are choosing to visit in winter, with its legendary ski opportunities and vibrant local festivals.
Getting off the beaten track is a rewarding experience in a country so diverse, and doing so helps to ensure that itineraries available to UK travellers remain uncrowded, as well as responsible and sustainable in terms of trip impact. The Nagano region is an easy winter escape from Tokyo by bullet train, famous for its snow monkeys who bathe in the warm thermal waters of the region’s hot springs. It’s a long-time haven for locals seeking a quiet weekend break from the city, who stay in mountain resorts to relax and spot Japan’s black bears and flying squirrels in their natural habitat – part of a city-wide conservation project. The towering cedar forests of Togakushi Shrine are worth a visit, as are the mountains and waterfalls of ancient trading towns such as Naraijuku, which offer a glimpse into Japan’s historic rural traditions.
Intrepid travellers will be satisfied in Japan’s northern hinterland of Hokkaido – a place where nature meets adventure. Home to the indigenous Ainu people of Japan, this region is the place for those looking to break new ground, whether that’s literally, aboard an ice-breaker ship, or figuratively, discovering the wilderness among the peaks, lakes and vast national parks of Japan’s largest prefecture.
Visitors can make good use of ANA’s domestic flight network – the most extensive in Japan. Fly from Tokyo to Sapporo in an hour and a half to sample the beer, ramen and fresh seafood and walk the buzzy side streets, or reach Hakodate in an hour and 20 minutes to enjoy the coastline vistas.
The five-star airline operates eight daily flights from Europe, including a direct route from London Heathrow to Haneda Airport, the most central airport in Tokyo.
For accommodation, Prince Hotels & Resorts has a large network of accommodation, including the four-star Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa, where the ABTA Travel Convention is taking place.
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is running free fam trips for travel companies before and after the ABTA Travel Convention to destinations including Hokkaido, Nagano, Hakone and Kyoto. Visit thetravelconvention.com/jnto-fam-trips-main to find out more and to apply.