Adventure travel could be the next big thing to draw visitors to Japan if the efforts of the public and private sectors come to fruition.
These guided tours of small groups include a mix of elements, from physical activity to coming into contact with nature and cultural exchange.
They have been gaining popularity among wealthy people from Europe, North America and Australia as a sustainable form of tourism, with the aim of impacting environmental and cultural aspects as little as possible.
For adventure travelers, the average stay is eight days and mean spending is 320,000 yen per person, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Adventure Travel Trade Association, with both numbers higher than average.
ATTA's Adventure Travel World Summit held in Hokkaido between Sept. 11-14 attracted government officials and travel agents from 64 countries and regions. There were also one-day tours offered for 31 adventure travel courses in Hokkaido, and a total of 600 people participated.
One course was a tour around Lake Shikotsu in Chitose, organized by a local travel agency. The one-hour walk took participants along a "moss corridor" made of moss-covered bedrock.
"This is what remained after the volcanic flow from an eruption of Mt. Tarumae, and heavy rainfall continues to scrape away at the area," said an interpreter in English as a local tour guide spoke in Japanese. "In just a couple of years, the rocks become covered in moss."
Tour participants observed distinct types of moss on the rocks using magnifying glasses and took photos with their cameras.
In preparation for the summit, the Hokkaido prefectural government established an Adventure Travel Guide System to certify activity guides. So far, 10 activity guides with expertise in physical activities such as canoeing and cycling, and one guide who is responsible for English interpretation to assist tourists have been certified. They will be trained to meet ATTA's guide standards.
Hokkaido has set a target of having each visitor spend 210,000 yen by fiscal 2025, 1.5 times the amount spent in the pre-pandemic year of fiscal 2019.
"We're expecting travelers from China to spend big," said a government official related to the matter.
Elsewhere, adventure travel is also being organized.
"Adventure travelers enjoy interacting with people and cultures particular to each region, so anywhere can be their destination," said a manager in charge of JTB Corp.'s regional exchanges. "We hope to bring visitors to the 2025 Osaka Expo to usher in adventure travel to other parts of Japan as well."