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Renovating the Local – Ski Japan! March 1, 2007

Posted by koda7 in Japan.
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Most the World is focused on a drop in world markets and the surprising resilience of American and Chinese markets. They are without out a doubt now intertwined as the economic poles of the world.

Well i’m not… Call me simple but its Winter time in the Northern hemisphere and its time to ski!

From an article in the Mainichi Daily New, “Japan is at the top in Asia in terms of skiing.” (Japan’s powdery slopes emerge as hot new international ski magnet, March 2, 2007). But what i’m really interested is the amount of foreign investment going into the Ski industry.

I remember watching the 1998 Nagano Olympics and hearing the reporters explaining that event had to be postponed or delay due to too much snow. I don’t remember ever hearing that about an Olympic venue anywhere. I remember thinking how great the ski hills were.

The thought never crossed my mind as to how the industry was actually going. Well if it was going well locally at that time, it seems to have been rejuvenated by those Olympics. The ski industry appears to have clasped in the 90s after a huge surge in the 80s, ” with the economic slump the following decade, and is still being undermined by the country’s shrinking population.” The population issues in Japan are for another post, another time.

But what interesting is that Japan ski resorts and investors, as well as foreign investors bailed out the industry and found new clients: the west. It appears that pre-Nagano the Japanese ski industry was primarily local. After the winter games, main land Asia and Australia took notice and saw the Japanese “snowy” mountains as the preferred choice.

Think about this: Three of the world’s most famous ski resorts, Aspen Valley (USA), Whistler (CAN), and Davos (SWI) recieve 25, 30 and 35 ft of annual snowfall respectively. Japans west coast receives on average 45 ft annually. Its actually astonishing that it took so long for the investors to open their eyes.

Apparently these resorts have even addressed the biggest barrier with tourism in Japan: language. “…owns like Hirafu show that times are changing. English permeates everything from restaurant menus and bus schedules to ski classes.”

Of the 14 million skiers that ski on Japan’s mountains only 7 million are Japanese. Some one call Donald Trump… oops too late Don. “In December, a unit of U.S.-based Citigroup Inc. paid 6.2 billion yen (US$51.2 million) for 12 troubled ski resorts…” and “…Japanese property giant Hoshino Resorts said it would spend US$84 million to revamp two failed ski resorts it bailed out in 2003 and 2004. ”

With the language barriers being broken and real innovative services, such as day care for skiing, the Japanese tourism industy in ripe. So the only thing left to look at is cost… Japan’s biggest problem.

While the the average Japanese Ski pass may be less than those at a large American or European mountains, your not getting the same value. At 2/3 the cost of the foreign ski pass your getting half the mountain (in size and acreage), a 1/3 more snow, and a real expensive flight ticket.

None the less its good thinking and demonstrates excellence innovation in tourism. It will only grow further with the increase in Asian economies and the increase in Chinese affluence.

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