To gain destination awareness in Japan when it was still a new market for Sedona, the chamber has strategically focused on promoting the uniqueness of Sedona by emphasizing the spiritual aspect including the Native American history in the area. As awareness has increased, we have continued to kept introduce “new” aspects of Sedona to the market. This strategy has been working well and Aki’s comments prove that consumers are responding to our efforts.
Many tour operators saw business opportunities in Sedona in recent years and we now have four tour operators that only focus on the Japanese market. The newest is America Travel Factory that officially opened its Sedona Branch in May 2013. Tom Natsuhara, General Manager of their Los Angeles Head Office, said, “Our main goal in 2013 is to have our own operation in Sedona to bring more Japanese visitors to Sedona as well as to the Phoenix, Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley areas. After extensive research and a study tour to Sedona in May 2012, we recognized that Sedona offers plenty of potential to all types of Japanese visitors. We believe our company can positively impact Japanese visitation to the area where people can stay longer and enjoy, relax and refresh themselves.”
There are many Sedona businesses that are benefitting from that market as well. BODY BLISS Factory Direct at Sinagua Plaza in Uptown Sedona is one of the businesses that has seen a great success with the Japanese market. Chanda Schmidt, one of the owners says, “Japanese visitors are truly appreciative of anything that is of quality and beauty. They are thankful, respectful and love personal attention.” She commented that BODY BLISS found out early why Japanese visitors are attracted to their business and how they can make their stay in Sedona personal and unforgettable. Here are some tips she shares with Sedona businesses interested in working with that market.
- Once they are in your store, they appreciate suggestions for items that they can bring home to family, co-workers and friends. Part of Japanese culture is to bring small gifts home, sometimes to as many as 20 people, so carrying small cute items that are original and inexpensive and providing small bags for those items are valued.
- Take your time to make them feel welcomed, but retreat to give them time to look around. Be attentive and available to help when necessary, but don’t be too aggressive.
- Carrying “Made in Sedona” items is another key to make a Japanese customer happy.
- You may experience language barriers, but they still love to interact. Slow down and speak with hands (and feet!) if necessary. Smile often and make them laugh. Keep a respectful physical distance.
- They feel honored if they can interact with the business owners. Owners of BODY BLISS are in store on a daily basis, and they have developed personal relationships with clients, customers and tour guides that bring visitors to the shop.
- BODY BLISS provides excellent customer service by adding extra personnel and a Japanese translator whenever Japanese tour groups are coming. More than anything else, tour guides appreciate businesses that make their clients happy. When they know their customers will be treated with respect and have a happy experience, they will bring back more visitors.
- Work closely with the Chamber of Commerce. Benefits include brochure distribution and business referrals at the Visitor Center and the Call Center, inclusion in various types of chamber’s e-newsletters that reach out to locals, consumers, media, and national and international travel industry professionals, etc.
Success in gaining business from a specific market requires cooperative efforts by the destination marketing organization, tour operators that connect the consumers and local businesses, and the readiness of the community to welcome those international guests. Providing useful information is also important. Statistics shows that the Japanese page of the Chamber’s tourism site, VisitSedona.com, is the fourth visited page of the site as of July 31, 2013. Japan is the number two country (following the U.S.A.) where viewers of the site reside.
The Chamber has just attended the regional destination seminar and workshop organized by Osamu Hoshino of Fieldstar International. Nearly 80 travel professionals from receptive tour operating companies in the Los Angeles area participated. “The Tour Product Inventory study this year shows that Arizona has maintained its momentum in the market in 2013. Arizona tour products on the shelves in the Japanese market in 2013 have increased by 44% compared to 2010,” says Osamu. It is imperative that we provide the travel industry professionals with new ideas and information in order to keep our region top of mind for them. The West Coast offices of the Japanese tour companies are very influential to their companies in the destination development decision-making process in Japan. They need to be educated to be able to respond to requests from their Japan offices.
The Chamber will also conduct a sales mission to Japan next month. It will partner with a rental car company to hold destination seminars in Tokyo and Osaka to promote Sedona as a hub for fly & drive programs. Additionally, ideas for group tour programs including incentive programs and Sedona Marathon Event will be given at the seminars.
If you have any questions, please contact the Chamber at 928-204-1123.