The road to Tokyo 2020 and beyond: WiT Japan & North Asia returns to ask the tough questions

Japan’s inbound continues to surge, reaching over 30m visitors in 2018, inching ever closer to its goal of 40m by 2020 and 60m in another decade.

Yet despite record visitors and spend in 2018 (totalling 4.5 trillion yen or $41.3 billion), its rate of growth has slowed significantly, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

The country had its fair share of woes in 2018, facing natural disasters like the Osaka earthquake and floods in western Japan, which impacted visitor numbers. In fact, in September, tourism numbers dropped for the first time in six years (before rebounding in October), reflecting how sensitive travellers are to risk factors.

Nevertheless, in the past year, overall spend rose by 8.7% (down from 17.8% in 2017) and Australians overtook Chinese travellers as the top spenders in Japan.

Getting tourists to part with their dollar though is becoming trickier as money spent shopping (which makes up 35% of traveller spend) dropped by 4.5%. Thus the pressure is on to find new ways to boost spending, beyond selling items in a store window, whether through services, dining or experiences.


Of course, the real challenges and opportunities are still to come. Come September, 12 cities in Japan play host to The Rugby World Cup 2019 – the first Asian nation to do so – bracing themselves for an influx of sporting fans. The international event will be but a pilot for the true test – the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

How are brands in travel and beyond bracing themselves for the influx? How will Japan maintain its prominence and allure as a top destination amid rising competition? Will Japanese travel brands maintain dominance on their home turf as foreign brands enter and expand, or are collaboration and consolidation key to a shared victory? How can Japan spread tourism beyond its main cities? How will smaller players survive in an age of consolidation and scale?

These are some of the many topics WiT will cover in its eighth WiT Japan & North Asia, as it takes the stage at this critical time in Japan’s travel history.

WiT will return to The Westin Tokyo this July 4 and 5, continuing its journey with the theme, “Through the Looking Glass”, and will look within travel to explore how different verticals have adapted to digitisation, as well as beyond travel to learn from companies in other industries.

“We fully expect 2019 to be our biggest year yet. It’s the last stretch on the road to 2020, and it will be interesting to see how Japan will manage its growth and legacy postSummer Olympics in a sustainable way.

“As numbers continue to rise, Japan must equip itself to mitigate risks of over-tourism on both a social and ecological level, to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen so many leading tourism destinations.

“WiT Japan & North Asia has always been bold about asking the tough questions that push travel companies to think more dynamically about how they maintain their relevance in an increasingly complicated digital travel landscape,” said WiT founder, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

For the first time, the WiT Bootcamp (July 4) will be hosted at the same venue as the Main Stage conference, to accommodate growing audience numbers. And, as is tradition, the WiT Bootcamp will feature the WiT Startup Pitch competition semi-finals, where up to 10 promising startups vie for a place in the Grand Finals on the Main Stage (July 5). The competition will open for entries on March 1.

“With over 30 million foreign visitors in 2018, Japan continues to break records with inbound tourism. As the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo Olympics 2020 approach, the government’s ambitious goals for tourism are becoming a reality.

It’s no wonder that technology and entrepreneurship are playing a vital role in accelerating its growth. Mobile “SuperApps” like LINE have started embracing travel. Mobile payments have begun to change users’ behaviour significantly. Content has become powerful and relevant to influence traveller’s decisions. Startups and technology companies are increasingly entering the travel & tourism space to disrupt the industry with new ideas.

And yet many of those trends seem to be quite unique and ones that the rest of world may eventually follow,” said Kei Shibata, co-founder & CEO, Venture Republic.

“With key events lined up this year in Japan – Rugby World Cup, Olympic, World Exposition and Integrated Resorts – we have no doubt that we reach our set goal for the tourism industry.

To capitalise on this growth, I highly encourage industry partners and friends to attend the WiT, a place where you can share real business experiences with online industry gurus and learn the trends and future of technologies in travel industry. It will also be an opportunity for you to build a relationships, actively grow your own business, and collectively plan the development of our tourism market. See you all in July,” said Aya Aso, founder and CEO of Savvy Collective.

About WiT Japan & North Asia

WiT Japan & North Asia

is organised jointly by Singapore-based WiT and WiT Japan Alumni, led by Kei Shibata, CEO of Venture Republic ( and Aya Aso, founder and CEO of Savvy Collective. This year will see the eighth edition of WiT to be held in Tokyo. The conference attracted over 500 delegates in 2018.

Registrations are now open:

About WiT

The WiT Singapore Conference is Asia’s leading online travel conference, held in Singapore every year, focused on travel technology, distribution and marketing. The two-day event will be held on October 14-16, 2019 and the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre.

WiT has won awards including Most Innovative Marketing Initiative and Trade Conference Of The Year and in 2014, its founder Yeoh Siew Hoon was recognised as Tourism Entrepreneur of The Year in Singapore.

Every year, WiT sees over 500 travel industry delegates in attendance from leading companies such as: Expedia, Ctrip, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Grab, Paytm, Amadeus, Travelport, and many more.

Over the past 13 years, WiT Conferences have been organised and held in multiple cities around the world, including: Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, Amsterdam, Sydney, Bali, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Dubai & Taipei.

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