Japan Vying Influence for Singapore Tourists

Singaporeans are no strangers to travelling. Not only does travelling offer an escape from their busy lifestyles, it has also becomed a symbol of status for SIngaporeans. Also, the growing affluence of the Singaporean has influenced more and more citizens to travel. Indeed, according to Visa’s Global Travel Intentions study 2015, 95% of Singaporeans have travelled overseas in the past two years, out-ranking the global rate of 76%.

Japan is no doubt one of top choices to travel, but the affluent Singaporean has to go through many considerations before choosing Japan as their travel choice. Before we look at the factors influencing their decisions on travel destinations, let’s look at the buying journey of a typical Singaporean traveller.

A Singaporean Traveller Persona

Jacinta is around 28 years old, single, and is an office employee. She is deciding to travel during the December holidays. She checks her own budget, starts gathering ideas from friends and the internet, and invites interested friends to join her for an independent travel (not with a group tour). Word of mouth is important, especially when asking friends who have travelled to the same place before. Visa is seldom an issue as most countries grants the Singaporean passport a longer stay than many other passports.

After comparing prices and areas of interests in various destinations, she starts looking for promotions for flights and accommodation. There is no Singaporean-centric site, and she is confident in international reviews from major sites such as tripadvisor.com. She makes prudent price comparisons on various booking sites for air travel and accommodation, such as hotels.com, zuji.com, and Expedia. After spending much time collecting the different prices and promotions, she proceeds to make the reservations.

5397211164_3fb43882cf_b (Mark Morgan)

Singaporeans often turn to review sites like Tripadvisor for recommendations (© Mark Morgan)
Top Three Factors Japan has to compete on attention for

While we have just seen only one persona, the other major types of travellers do not fall far from Jacinta’s research and buying processes. What we have left out are the minute, and yet highly significant details to how Jacinta arrives at her decision. How do these small details affect her decision, and ultimately the typical Singaporean’s decision, to go to Japan?


This is the most important factor for Singaporeans when they are considering their trip. They not only seek value from each dollar spent, they also expect promotions or discounts that they can take advantage of. They spend time gathering information from various sources, and staying sensitive to the differences in price points. Favourable exchange rate will also highly influence the Singaporean’s decision.

However, that does not mean they go for the cheapest. While searching for possible options, they scan the reviews from other travellers, whether the service is good, or whether it is what they have expected. Ultimately, the provider with the best cost performance will win the Singaporean purchase. If a trip to Taiwan offers a better value than Japan, then a trip to Taiwan will likely be decided upon.

Ease of Travel

Unless there is a visiting spot or activity that is world-renowned, Singaporeans would generally prefer to travel to areas with easy access. This makes the difference between traveling to Tokyo, where there are many bus services to the outlying areas of Tokyo, versus a visit to the national heritage lakes, or a trip to an obscure art museum.

The ease of travel also comes from the language. Through a few gestures and through broken English, a Singaporean can get directions or advice from the locals quite easily in most parts of Japan. Unfortunately, it is not so easy for Singaporeans once they leave the main cities of Japan, where the Japanese may not be able to speak English, and signboards are difficult for non-English speakers to read.

Information Availability

Availability of related information is also very important. This is especially true if the destinations do not embrace the English speaking crowd (most Singaporeans speak English). This makes information hard to spread, like seasonal timings, and especially information about accessing the highly complex public transportation in Japan.

This is especially important too for driving holidays. Singaporeans are beginning to take interest in driving holidays in Japan, especially for out of urban centres. Without enough information about what roads to take, the directions to places of interest, local parking advice etc, research is met with frustration, and alternative destinations may be chosen.

Singapore’s Top Travel Destinations (excluding Japan)
Naturally, the next question we would like to ask ourselves is, “What are the favourite travel destinations for Singaporeans then?”
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, among the top destinations include Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan. (China and India are also popular, but it’s skewed due to the high population of Chinese and Indian foreign workers in Singapore.) Let’s have a look at some of the destinations.
1024px-Johor–Singapore_Causeway (CC0)
The Johor-Singapore Causeway, used by thousands daily

South-East Asia commands the most visits from Singaporeans. It makes sense as travel from Singapore to neighbouring countries is not only cheap, the exchange rate is almost always in Singaporean’s favour (Singapore is among the top in the list of most expensive countries to live in).

Visits to Malaysia is even easier. Crossing the border into Malaysia is easy with bus, car or even for those who like to walk. Goods in Malaysia can be bought at half the price as in Singapore due to the exchange rate. With good food, service and cheap shopping, Malaysia will be an evergreen travel destination for Singaporeans, especially for weekend trips.


Together with Malaysia is Indonesia for Singapore’s top travel destinations. Not only is the exchange rate good, the availability of budget airlines in the South-East Asia region has made it cheap to travel to Indonesia by plane. Being neighbouring countries also mean that citizens of both countries are in good relationships with one another, making Indonesia a friendly travel destination for Singaporeans.


Trips out of the South-East Asia region are considered to be bigger trips, as these tend to be more expensive than the closer destinations. Budget flights are sometimes available, though the discomfort of long flights in tight seats might be unbearable for some. Regardless the flight they take, these big trips include destination such as America, Europe, Great Britain, and of course, Australia. Travellers to Australia are not looking for a different culture, but the comfort and ease of traveling in a big country, with various sightseeing spots and activities awaiting them.

Yamadera, Yamagata, Japan
Where does Japan stand in all of this?
A Japan trip is a bigger endeavour, comparable to a trip to Australia or Paris. Singaporeans will be looking for the amount of value they are squeezing out of a big trip. They will often be looking out not just for promotions, but a different kind of experience. For example, the urban Tokyo might soon become weary for a Singaporean, while a visit to a laid-back part of Tokyo, or day trips out of Tokyo will make the trip more memorable, and thus of more value.
Opinions about and the image of Japan are mixed among Singaporeans. Ever since the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, there are three houses of opinions: those who do not care for the radiation, those who are not interested unless they have a good reason to travel to Japan, and those who are adamant about not travelling to Japan (even if it’s not near Fukushima).

However, numbers are still hopeful. According to Japan National Tourism Organisation, there has been a 32.3% increase in number of visitors from Singapore from Sep 2014 till now, which proves to be quite a feat that Japan has worked hard to achieve.

Travel agencies and tourism boards are also doing a lot of promotions and education about Japan tourism spots, and we are seeing the successful increase in number of visitors to Japan from Singapore. The popular travel spots are still Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido, while more Singaporeans are beginning to learn more about the lesser known parts of Japan. There is still untapped potential for Japan in the Singapore travel market.

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