TT-639 -- 10,000 Tickets, a Good Idea or Not? e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, November 20, 2011, Issue No. 639


- What's New -- 10,000 Tickets, a Good Idea or Not?
- News -- Interesting data about high net worth individuals
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

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When we first heard about the ten thousand free flights
being offered to bloggers by the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA)
to come to Japan, we were a bit incredulous. This has been
an agency that until now has had to work with minimal
budgets and manpower. So for them to lay out JPY1.1bn for
tickets and to provide the manpower and logistics required
to execute this campaign was quite a surprise. Actually,
though, the announcement is still just a trial balloon,
because the JTA has yet to get budget allocation from the
Diet, and we won't know until March 2012 whether it will
pass muster or not.

However, we presume that it will -- because everyone knows
that Japan's tourism industry is in the pits at present
and needs urgent CPR.

It didn't take long for the news to get out on the wires
and the blogosphere, and for people to get quite excited
about the opportunity to win a free round trip to Japan.
Indeed, since the announcement there have been over 100
million searches on Google for terms relating to free
tickets to Japan. Hundreds of news agencies and
publications have picked up the story, and as a trial
balloon we'd have to say that it has been a huge success.
Even if the budget approval doesn't happen next March, the
attention that the JTA has won for Japan with this story
will be invaluable.

Obviously many "entrepreneurial" types have sensed an
opportunity in the promotion. We don't know the details,
but the JNTO had to run an announcement on their website
last month, warning visitors that "There have been reports
in some countries about acts of fraud related to this
media report. The Japanese government has not committed to
provide free flight tickets to Japan to anybody. Please be
careful not to get caught up in this kind of fraud."

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

That brings up the question of just how the JTA is going to
conduct this campaign because dealing with potentially
millions of applicants will present some real challenges.
They haven't disclosed much about the program yet, other
than that there will be a special site set up for
applications, and that they are interested in bloggers who
are influential. Our first question is how they are going
to qualify applicants? We understand that the basic idea
is to focus on Facebook and Twitter users. If that's the
case, we wonder if they have heard of "Klout" scoring?
This will at least let them take a semi-scientific approach
to evaluating each applicant.

We ask this because high rankings on Twitter or Facebook
are not necessarily desirable. As a simple example, think
of the scantily clad hopeful models on Facebook who are
each maxed out at 4,800 Friends in their efforts to gain
attention. Are they there because of their persuasion skills?
Hardly. Something more basic got them there. Well, OK,
maybe if they are wearing a skimpy beach outfit while down
in Okinawa, we suppose they might draw some relevant

How the JTA chooses people is also important because doing
a poor job at an early stage will discourage interest from
millions of hopeful applicants, or worse, it could cause a
negative backlash against perceived unfairness. Instead of
just relying on Facebook and Twitter numbers or even Klout
scores, the JTA would be much better served by creating a
website that lets produce material on a pre-trip basis and
have others vote/"like" entries -- thus creating a level
playing field.

Another question is: how does one get 10,000 people to
blog/post/tweet nicely? With a number that big, there are
bound to be some influential bloggers having bad
experiences when they come through -- especially if they
get to thinking they are celebrities, when in fact local
hospitality workers won't be aware of this nor care less
about it. You WILL eat fish every morning for breakfast...

Actually, when you get down to it, how does one enforce
the ticket winners to blog at all? After all, the JTA can't
threaten "no postings, no flight back home". Will
they put them in jail or fine them? Related to this is
just what is sufficient volume for a post, tweet, or blog?
Are a few sentences and photos sufficient work to earn a
JPY100,000 airfare? Who adjudicates this? Who counts and
evaluates each contribution? This sounds like a huge job
unless the JTA is going to automate the process.

We hope the JTA comes up with some good answers to these
and other concerns, so that the campaign is seen as
accessible to everyone and not for just an elite few. No one
denies that inbound tourism needs a huge kick start. Common
wisdom has it that tourism is down by the 40% or so because
of three factors: the high yen, language issues, and
Fukushima. There can be no doubt that Fukushima has been a
major disruptor of normal tourism patterns, and the main
beneficiary of the disaster has been South Korea, which at
one point last week indirectly attributed 14% of its
increased tourist numbers to the Fukushima situation. We
all hope Fukushima will be largely resolved by year-end
and that tourists will start responding to the media
messages about cold shut-down.

What about the high yen and language issues?

Actually, the South Korean tourism industry is a good
reference point for Japan's performance, and shows that
neither the yen appreciation nor language have been
particularly strong tourism deterrents over the last three
years. Since 2008, we should have seen tourism numbers
drop as the yen appreciated. Instead, there was no
noticeable drop and inbound numbers stayed flat. Over the
same period, and yes, admittedly the Won is cheaper,
Korea's tourist numbers have climbed substantially.
Why is it that pre-March/11, when Japan has far more
historic places of interest, places to go, and pop culture
assets, that South Korea, also a non-English speaking
country, had more tourists?

We think the main reason is much more simple: Japan has
insufficient marketing and a tourism industry that hasn't
embraced foreign tourists. We suppose this is
understandable, when domestic tourists outnumber foreign
ones 10 to 1, but it needs to change. Discount airlines are
creating the channels through which hordes of foreign
tourists are supposed to come in through, so it's time for
a coordinated high-level effort to lift the quality of
Japan's tourism infrastructure. In particular, it would be
good if the local hotels could put something else out for
breakfast besides cornflakes and fish... :-)

So in this context, we wholly support the 10,000 free
flights to Japan by the JTA. We think the promotion is a
bit risky if it is not managed properly, but at least it
will kick off a much higher awareness within Japan
itself of the value of foreign tourists.

Lastly, readers will have noticed in our newsletter last
week that sister company Metropolis has launched a new
nationwide travel portal called Given
the 10,000 free tickets campaign, our launch was good
timing. Can you please show your support by going to and checking it out? Specifically, if you
approve of our efforts, please click the Facebook "Like"
button at the top right of the top page -- we want our
Klout score to get up there as well!

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Over 40's feel most burden of medical expenses
- Farmed fish to make up 50% of fish sold next year
- International tax collaboration nets extra JPY85bn
- India-based Lupin snaps up J pharma company
- Interesting data about high net worth individuals

-> Over 40's feel most burden of medical expenses

A July survey conducted by the National Federation of
Health Insurance Societies has found that 61% of workers
in their 40's find their health insurance premiums too
high, followed by 39.4% and 39% for people in their 60's
and 50's respectively. This is perhaps surprising, given
that workers still receive government subsidization of 70%
of their medical bills (the subsidy rises to 90% for
people in their 70's). ***Ed: Japan's working population
should know that they have a pretty good deal compared to
other countries, in terms of health care costs -- a 30%
contribution is not a lot to pay if the costs for
operations and other procedures are already lower than most
other first-world countries.** (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 19, 2011)

-> Farmed fish to make up 50% of fish sold next year

The Food and Agriculture Organization in the United
Nations has said that more than 50% of fish sold
globally will come from acquaculture farms from next year.
Apparently farmed product came to 57.2m tones in 2010,
accounting for 48% of total seafood production. The 50%
mark is expected to be passed in 2012. China is the top
acquaculture producer, supplying the market with around
32.74m tons. (Source: TT commentary from,
Nov 19, 2011)

-> International tax collaboration nets extra JPY85bn

Gone are the days when the Japanese Tax Office let
retired Yakuza and others off the hook if they managed to
get their ill-gotten gains parked abroad, due to language
and staffing limitations. The National Tax Agency has just
declared that with recent bilateral tax treaties in place,
it has been able to recover some JPY85bn in undeclared
income in the last 10 years. The Tax Agency reckons that
about 6% of that number (US$5.7bn) was specific tax
evasion. Japan now has tax treaties with 64 countries and
regions, including the Cayman Islands and other low-tax,
no-tax jurisdictions. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 19, 2011)

-> India-based Lupin snaps up J pharma company

Indian generic pharmaceuticals firm Lupin has purchased
Tokyo-based injectables firm I'rom Pharma, its second
M&A in Japan. The purchase price was undisclosed. I'rom
does about JPY5.3bn in sales to 1,400 Government-set
fixed-price (DPC) clinics and hospitals, which make up
about 35% of all the hospital beds in Japan. ***Ed: We find
it interesting that at this stage there is no hue and cry
by the Japan Medical Association (JMA) about encroachment
on the national health system by foreign drug companies.
We suppose it's because although generics reduce income to
doctors, who get paid according to how much they prescribe,
some foreign encroachment is better than a broken health
system, which would otherwise be the alternative as the
government has to start cutting back on health spending.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Nov 17, 2011)

-> Interesting data about high net worth individuals

Interesting article from Bloomberg this last week, about
high net worth individuals in Japan. The article quotes
sources as saying that the high net worth pool in Japan
owns about US$4.63trn in assets (2010 figure), up 6.97%
from 2009. It reckons that the share of asset managers is
50% between Mitsubishi-UFJ, Mizuho, and Sumitomo-Mitsui,
20% to Japanese brokerages, 20% to foreign brokerages, and
10% to boutiques. The article goes on to discuss the
conservative nature of Japanese high net worth individuals,
and that typically they are invested in: 19% equities
(global average is 33%), fixed income 25%, and cash and
deposits 29% (16% elsewhere in Asia). (Source: TT
commentary from, Nov 16, 2011)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.



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