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e-Magazine (For the Japanese version of this article)

Growing Kyushu’s Inbound Flows Adopting a lifecycle approach that appeals through consistent customer value stories Hiroshi Ebara Managing Director Health & Public Service Group Accenture Japan [Date of Issue: 30/June/2017 No.0268-1049]

Date of Issue: 30/June/2017

Growing Kyushu's Inbound Flows
Adopting a lifecycle approach that appeals through consistent customer value stories

Hiroshi Ebara
Managing Director
Health & Public Service Group
Accenture Japan

The key to growing inbound flows of students, tourists and investment is to factor in the particular life-stages of each of these as customers, instituting a shift from “patchwork-style” regional resource management to an emphasis on consistent “stories.”


Early in December 2016, I took part in a promotional tour which the Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry organized in conjunction with the Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST). The tour was designed to rediscover regional resources through the eyes of foreign experts, and which would then ultimately tie up with the end-goal of growing Kyushu's inbound flows. I was the only Japanese, invited along for my investment attraction. The aim was to visualize foreigners of different generations who have different purposes for visiting Japan along the spectrum of a long-term lifecycle, boosting not only the number of international students and short-term foreign tourists but also those foreigners coming to Kyushu for trade and investment purposes. To that end, the tour program had a party of experts from various fields taken around Kyushu to identify what needed to be improved, areas that tended to be overlooked, and areas that should be more actively foregrounded. The other members of the party were:

• Tom Vincent, CEO of Tonoloop Networks
• Nick Szasz, CEO/Publisher, FUKUOKA NOW
• Aldo Bloise, Deputy General Manager, IT & IP Strategy Advisory Group SA (Japan)

The December tour was focused primarily on Fukuoka Prefecture and Oita Prefecture in northeastern Kyushu, and visited the following spots:

Day 1:
Kitakyushu Airport ⇒ Yaskawa Innovation Center and Robot Plant ⇒ Kokura Ori Yu Textile Workshop ⇒ SHIMA SHIMA Head Office ⇒ Tanga Ichiba (market) ⇒ Kokura Uomachi Sunroad (shopping arcade)
Day 2:
Mojiko Retro Area ⇒ Moji Red Brick Place ⇒ Fresenius Medical Care Japan Buzen Plant ⇒ Beppu Hot Springs Umi Jigoku ⇒ Beppu City
Day 3:
Onsen steam power generation system ⇒ Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University ⇒ Oita Robocare Center
Day 4:
Nakashimada Engineering Works, Ltd. ⇒ Nakayama Kichisyoen (green tea) ⇒ Yame Dento Kougeikan (traditional craftwork gallery)

Shima-Shima Head Office

Shima-Shima Head Office

From a “patchwork-style” to a “story-style” presentation of regional resources

We witnessed firsthand many of Kyushu's attractions at the abovementioned locations, including world-class pioneering technologies, a wonderful natural environment, and amazing products and technologies backed by tradition. And—unfortunately—from the perspective of someone with extensive involvement in companies and industries, I must say that my strong impression was that there are numerous outstanding companies in Kyushu that are not widely recognized even here in Japan, let alone overseas. From the perspective of “managing” regional industry, these companies should be provided with intensive support—such as campaigns to raise their profile with target audiences at home and abroad—to push them to become both the beating heart and the driving force for Kyushu, as well as the region's “poster boys” overseas. My fellow experts remarked that, similarly, it was a real shame that excellent tourism resources were also unknown.

When it comes to encouraging foreigners to make the decision to head to Kyushu, a common conception is probably the “patchwork-style” approach—in other words, simply gathering as many good resources as possible. However, lining up a string of good products is simply not enough to persuade Western players to spend the time and money to make the long journey from across the globe to Kyushu (in other words, the cost vs benefit ratio fails to meet value criteria). What such an approach overlooks was summed up by expert Tom Vincent's extremely insightful and important observation that “the really critical thing for people making the decision to come from overseas is context.” In other words, what is needed is a “story-style” approach, whereby the degree of satisfaction is enhanced by the consistent “common denominator” values experienced through the various resources.

At the follow-up conference after the tour, various types of industrial routes were devised based on “common denominator” concepts (X in the above formula), including the quintessential technology and customization capacity which seemed to be shared by all the companies we visited, along with tradition and the future, and experiential tourism. Packaging regional resources in this way and communicating them overseas, constituting tourist routes, and conducting invitational programs might all have the potential to be effective in inbound promotion.

Kokura Ori (Textiles) Yu Textile Workshop

Kokura Ori (Textiles) Yu Textile Workshop

Attracting international students, tourists and investment as different life stages along a single spectrum

Taking part in the tour reminded me of two important points in inventorying regional resource strengths and designing initiatives. The first was the strategic aspect of seeking to attract tourists not as visitors passing through, but rather as customers (in other words, as business), narrowing down specific target customers, and identifying what customers really want (putting one's own pride temporarily to the side). The second was the practical aspect of executing that strategy consciously, methodically, and thoroughly.

An integrated resort operator whose enterprise is built around a famous North American ski resort offers a great example of regional marketing that tracks customers over a long cycle. It uses a long-term customer relations management (CRM) method to trace customers over their entire lives as they move from childhood into school and then out into society, right through to couples whose children have grown up and left home, catering to each life stage so that the resort will continue to be chosen by customers across their life cycle. Of course, the efforts of one area and one corporate group cannot be applied as is to tourism and investment promotion initiatives involving multiple government agencies across the entire Kyushu area. However, the attraction of tourists, investment, and international students is often handled from a very short-sighted perspective and as though each of these targets were separate, rather than tackling regional management that will consistently and increasingly appeal to customers throughout their various life stages. With this tour, Kyushu has taken the first step toward considering a more comprehensive approach to both attracting international tourists and students, and securing investment in the region.

Faced with a string of very frank, no-holds-barred observations from tour participants, the tour organizers must have gone through a great deal. Here, I would like to apologize for that, but at the same time, I do think that having Kyushu examined for a concentrated period of time through the eyes of outsiders (both from elsewhere in Japan and from overseas) with expertise in different fields, going together with them to the various places, and having them offer their impressions without reservation was an effective “reagent,” albeit one requiring caution in terms of using the results. I look forward to the outstanding resources sitting dormant in the Kyushu region being picked up and polished from a sustained and long-term perspective. Moreover, as a consultant, ten to fifteen years from now I would of course like to reflect on the pertinence of my impressions and thoughts back in 2016.

Onsen Steam Cooked Cuisine (Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa)

Onsen Steam Cooked Cuisine (Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa)


Related Information
Report of the Tour (Go to the Website of Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry)(English )


(For the Japanese version of this article)


| Top Page | Category: IIST activitiesRegion & Industry |
Back number Search (FY2011- IIST e-Magazine):| Category Search | Keyword Search | Article List |
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