Reimagining the ideal incentive travel destination
with captivating Japan

The upcoming Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai will catapult Japan's spiritual and cultural capital to global attention, as well as showcase its unique appeal for corporate groups to plan unforgettable itineraries.

Come April to October 2025, the world expo will be held for the second time in Kansai since 1970 (Credit:Expo 2025)

Building on the spirited legacy of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the much anticipated World Expo 2025 in Osaka is now setting the stage for overseas visitors to experience Japan as an ideal incentive travel destination.

Etsuko Kawasaki, executive director of Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and Japan Convention Bureau, told TTGmice that since the resumption of incentive travel last October, several corporate groups from Europe and Asia have already visited Japan. Currently, she is also seeing strong interest from Asia, especially the Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore markets.

Various surveys also revealed Japan as the top destination travellers prefer to visit after borders reopen and incentive travel is also expected to recover strongly in the future.

Artist Yoichi Ochiai's null2 features sculptures that use mirrors to "distort" the surrounding landscape (Credit: 2023 Yoichi Ochiai / Design:NOIZ All Rights Reserved.)
Future of Life by Hiroshi Ishiguro presents a world where the boundary between humans and robots does not exist (Credit: FUTURE OF LIFE / EXPO 2025)

Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai as stellar showcase and launchpad

Come April to October 2025, over a total of 184 days, the world expo will be held for the second time in Kansai since 1970.

Apart from catapulting Kansai to global attention, it will allow the region to act as a tourism hub to encourage visitors to venture out to explore other parts of Japan, according to Yoshikazu Tanaka, director of MICE Policy, director of World Expo 2025 & Integrated Resort Projects, Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau.

In line with the expo's theme of Designing Future Society For Our Lives and based on the concept of People's Living Lab, key highlights include a flying car display, an AI-based translation service for expo participants and visitors, as well as a virtual reproduction of the Yumeshima site of the expo in the online space, using augmented reality and virtual reality to interlink the real and virtual worlds.

A spokesperson for the Osaka World Exposition told TTGmice: "The Osaka-Kansai Expo aims to explore the operation of flying cars with an exhibit which allows visitors to 'travel' in and out of the venue via a flying car. The (virtual reproduction) project is to realise an inclusive expo so that people with disabilities, the elderly, people from overseas and distant places who cannot visit the venue in-person, can participate."

One of the signature pavilions, Future of Life, produced by leading expert in robotics, Hiroshi Ishiguro, presents a world in which the boundary between humans and robots cease to exist, and enables visitors to learn more about the possibilities of this "new life".

Another one, null2, by media artist Yoichi Ochiai, features mind-boggling sculptures that use mirrors to "distort" the images of the surrounding landscape.

Tanaka added: "The expo will not only showcase Japan's world-class cutting-edge technology, but also various initiatives to achieve the SDGs, as well as the charms of Japan, such as its culture and cuisine. There will be a Japan Pavilion and eight theme parks. We would also like to welcome visitors to visit the places where some of our culinary delights originated (in Kansai) to savour the food on-site."

Unique appeal of Japan's spiritual and cultural capital

Tanaka believed that Kansai region's appeal is multi-faceted and offers the right invigorating mix as an attractive incentive destination of choice.

For a start, there is ease of accessibility with the Kansai International Airport in operation 24 hours and a well-developed efficient domestic transportation network. Neighbouring cities - Kyoto, Nara, Kobe - and other well-known tourist hotspots are less than an hour away.

The social situation is stable and safe with the depreciation of the yen being another draw.

With 70 per cent of temples and shrines concentrated in Kansai, it caters to the rising trend of the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) group, who prefer their travels centred on rejuvenating activities, not unlike zen meditation sessions and outdoor adventures, Tanaka noted.

Wakayama prefecture in Kansai, home to World Heritage sites of Mt Koya and Kumano Kodo, provides the natural travel backdrop for this new breed. Delegates can engage in a group meditation on Mt Koya, trek the pilgrimage route of ancient courtiers on Kumano Kodo, or visit the breathtaking Nachi Falls nearby.

Kawasaki also updated that JNTO is currently engaged in a project to compile exciting incentive travel options from all over Japan - this will provide ease of reference for corporate planners and organisers keen to curate one-of-a-kind programmes.

In addition to the 42 attractive experiences collated last year, 12 new packages have recently been added.

Fun team-building ideas include having delegates in Hokkaido attend an exclusive party at an ice lounge or for corporate groups to enjoy a memorable stay at awe-inspiring Ozu Castle in Ehime Prefecture.

Corporate groups can enjoy a stay at Ozu Castle in Ehime Prefecture
Corporate planners can organise an exclusive party at an ice lounge in Hokkaido as part of team-building activities
Delegates can visit the breathtaking Nachi Falls in Kansai as part of their incentive travel itinerary

Tanaka concluded: "From Osaka, we will showcase the charms of all of Japan. Even now, foreigners come to our information centres in Osaka city and ask about Nagano Prefecture or Hokkaido without hesitation, and I believe this trend will accelerate in the lead-up to World Expo 2025, so we are working hard to create a showcase for Japanese tourism."

Ready to plan a rewarding incentive travel itinerary in Japan?

From must-visit places and unique off-the-radar locations, corporate organisers and planners can find inspiration here.

For assistance with your tour, find out more here.

By TTGmice / Posted on 1 March, 2023 0:01