Pronounce the word ‘Japan’ and images of snow-capped mountains in the North, pine-clad islands in the South, refined people living in cool cities combining traditions and modernity like no other, will immediately conjure up. In fact, coming to Japan and being in touch with Japanese people brings planners and delegates in contact with the imagination and intelligence of the country. This unique mix leads to new ways of thinking and triggers experiential insights hard to find anywhere else, as the country, along a strong academic community, has for a long time been a leading force for research and development in many industries – from engineering and pharmaceuticals to robotics, finance and IT.
Aiming to be the leading meetings destination in Asia by 2030 and already looking beyond the 2020 Olympics which will take place this year (after last year’s postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic) Japan boasts one of the largest national memberships within many international associations, in addition to a great record of hosting successful international association events. This is partly due to the efforts of the Japan Convention Bureau which identifies conferences that are aligned with the country’s key industries and sectors.
Lung cancer in Yokohama
In this context, no wonder Japan hosted the 18th World Congress on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in Yokohama in October 2017. Held at PACIFICO Yokohama and themed “Synergy to Conquer Lung Cancer”, the world’s largest meeting dedicated to this unfortunately widespread disease attracted about 7,000 delegates from around the globe: over the course of four days, medical doctors, scientists, nurses, health professionals, government officials, partners from the industry, health advocacy groups and patients came together in order to obtain and exchange information on advances in the management of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies, while considering both global and regional aspects.
“Initially we didn’t know which Japanese city would be the best fit for this conference and JNTO was great in shortlisting cities based on our requirements and introducing us to the respective convention bureaus and centres,” explains Mathias Posch, President of ICS, a company which has just celebrated 40 years of successfully organizing meetings. “Yokohama Convention Bureau and PACIFICO Yokohama Convention Centre worked together closely to deliver a competitive bid and arrange the site visit according to our needs. They also collected information on funding options available and were able to provide some funding through the Bureau as well as point us in the right direction in terms of funding from the National Science Council. Throughout the process they introduced us to suppliers and were collaborative in coming up with solutions to some of our challenges.”
Posch was quick in praising Japan as a conference destination, fondly remembering the wonderful hospitality and great service they experienced at every stage of the event. He says: “For conferences especially, Japan has been engaged in many international associations in a leading capacity and there is great pride in hosting international conferences – we therefore see great attendance and local industry involvement when we organize an international conference in Japan. In addition, Japan offers a safe and clean environment, easy access from around the globe and has a great reputation for excellent hospitality – all these things make it very easy to attract delegates to the destination. We also usually see an uptick in attendance from all over Asia due to the same reasons.”
Iconic meeting destinations
Meet Japan was also the occasion for the virtual delegates to tour some of Japan’s iconic meeting destinations. They actually did a good job making sure we knew all about the varied conference infrastructures and the latest developments of the business event industry in the country.
In Osaka, I was particularly interested to learn about Yumeshima, which translates as “Dream Island.” Yumeshima will not only be the site of the 2025 World Expo but a candidate to host Japan’s first casino resort. The plans for the 390-hectare island will add two more magnets pulling foreign visitors to a city and region already enjoying an unprecedented tourism boom — as is Japan overall — partly due to an easing of visa restrictions for Chinese tourists. In that regard, Osaka, which is already well-loved for its cuisine and welcoming citizens, is set to become one of the biggest tourist draws in East Asia.
The theme of the 2025 World Expo is ‘Designing Future Society’, with a focus on health and sustainability, reflecting Osaka’s effort to develop new industries in medical tourism and green energy. An opportunity for countries to showcase ideas and innovation, Expos take place every five years and Osaka’s will run from May to November 2025. It is targeting 28m visitors — roughly a quarter of the population of Japan. Yumeshima has been thought out as an integrated resort: it will boast thousands of hotel rooms and a conference centre.
More information on Japan as a conference destination: www.japanmeetings.org