Changing Demographics in Japan's National Parks; Towards a Targeted Marketing Strategy for Nature-Based Tourists

15 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012

See all articles by Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones

Graduate School of Governance Studies, Tokyo

Date Written: 2012


Trends from Japan and other post-industrial countries suggest visitor demand for nature-based tourism (NBT) destinations such as national parks, which rocketed in the post-war period, has peaked and is now in decline. This has adverse implications for funding and natural resource management. One suggested counter strategy is targeted marketing based on commercial techniques, but this relies on accurate knowledge of the market to maintain current segments and attract new ones.This paper employs a ‘market leader’ case study approach to investigate visitors to Kamikochi, a gateway to the North Japan Alps whose long conservation pedigree, and proximity to urban areas, ensures it can fulfil both ‘protection’ and ‘promotion’ criteria. The focus was on the Day Hiker (Dh) segment of visitor demand, deemed desirable from a managerial perspective, because they were shown to stay longer, visit more frequently and have a greater interaction with nature. The aims were to identify the composition of Kamikochi’s Dh visitor segment, and cross analyse the results to provide practical information for national park managers. Following on from a 2007 survey, 391 usable semi-structured questionnaires were collected between July 10th and September 10th 2009, from participants in guided tours at Kamikochi, a response rate of 31%. Results show the ‘market leader’ segment consisted of pairs or small groups of well-educated, wealthy ‘baby-boomers’ from Kanto; 55% were aged 50 or over, and 59% came from the greater Tokyo metropolitan area. These KantoDhs tended to be repeat visitors (66.0%) who stayed for 2 nights or more (55.1%), thus surpassing the bench mark set by previous research. However, the results provided a snapshot of visitor demand unbalanced not only by urban area, but also gender, age and income; hence further research is needed to explain the dominance of female, elderly and wealthy visitors.

One logical explanation is that these segments are already being targeted by travel agencies, as suggested by the 42% who came to Kamikochi as part of a package tour. If so, then it raises the question of why marketing is being outsourced to travel agencies rather than conducted via joint campaigns that incorporate a range of stakeholders.Thus although the need for targeted marketing is clear, some significant barriers to marketing NBT resources exist, including diverse objectives, mixed land ownership and insufficient funding. Transparent goals, combined with ongoing visitor segment monitoring, are thus two vital steps towards a targeted NBT marketing strategy.

Keywords: Kamikochi, Japan, national park, nature-based tourism, visitor typology, marketing

JEL Classification: L83

Suggested Citation

Jones, Thomas, Changing Demographics in Japan's National Parks; Towards a Targeted Marketing Strategy for Nature-Based Tourists (2012). Tourism & Hospitality Management, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Thomas Jones (Contact Author)

Graduate School of Governance Studies, Tokyo ( email )

1-1 Kanda Surugadai
Tokyo, Chiyoda-ku

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