A Japanese delegation led by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is looking to elevate the profiles of Japan’s smaller regional airports.

“These airports have small budgets, so we want to promote them by bringing them under the JNTO umbrella,” Yuri Nishiyama of JNTO’s global projects section said during the Routes Asia event in Cebu this week. “In addition, the Japanese government is setting a target of 40 million visitors by 2020 and 60 million by 2040. Since the capacity at the major hubs is becoming full, the only way to meet the target is to bring tourist through these smaller airports.”

The JNTO booth at Routes Asia comprises representatives of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Takamatsu, Kagoshima, Shizuoka and Chitose airports. In addition, Okinawa, Tokyo-Narita, Sendai and Chubu have their own individual booths.

Without revealing specific city pairs, Nishiyama said Thailand is seeing enormous growth, with 1.1 million inbound visitors in 2018 and 14.7% growth year on year, followed by the Philippines of around 504,000 visitors, an18.8% increase year over year. There is also good traffic from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. She said JNTO has a special budget that is allocated to these six Southeast Asian markets for “aggressive marketing”.

JNTO Global Projects Section deputy manager Daisuke Kobayashi said the organization has noticed that the region was seeing high demand for Japan’s Hokkaido region because of a snowy climate not found in southeast Asia. He said Hokkaido was often second only to Tokyo in terms of traffic and can experience more traffic than Tokyo in certain markets and seasons.

“One of the reasons why we are focusing on Philippines is that airlines here are able to reach Japan with a narrowbody aircraft like the A320, allowing these smaller regional airports to handle them,” Kobayashi added.

The Japanese government is also promoting the privatization of airports in Japan. Osaka Kansai, Chubu, Sendai are among Japanese airports that have been privatized.  JNTO said was in the second stage of evaluating the final two bids for Hokkaido’s new Chitose airport. Hokkaido Terminal Co. and Groupe Aeroports De Paris have each bid to operate that airport.

Chen Chuanren, chuanren@purplelightvisuals.com