One of the snowiest winter seasons on record and the complete shutdown of Fukushima have led to an increase in last minute bookings here with accommodations filling up for March.
The season started off slow with many skiers going elsewhere for their winter vacation. “The Fukushima disaster coupled with the strong yen pushed a lot of regular Niseko guests to head to the USA,” says Saoka Wakasugi from Travelplan. “With the American dollar being at an all-time low, we had a lot of bookings with Travelplan USA, but Travelplan Japan bookings were down this season.”
To help boost bookings here, incentive campaigns were launched, like the “Beat the Yen” campaign run by Nisade. “We offered 20 per cent off accommodation in our Setsumon and Freshwater buildings during non peak times. We also offered 15 per cent off accommodation at The Vale Niseko during February and March. We wanted to encourage people who were intimidated by the strong yen to come by discounting the difference,” explains Graeme Crompton, reservation manager at Nisade. Graeme says the response has been very good, and it looks like they will stay busy well into March.
Another major factor in the increase of bookings here was the poor early season snowfall in many American resorts. The Western USA had a bad bout of weather to start their 2011/12 winter season. “The US monthly snow cover extent was the 3rd smallest on record in the past 46 years”, says Leisure Trends Retail Analyst JJ Rudman. Take the Lake Tahoe Basin as an example – on January 1 the snowpack there was a mere 9 per cent of the normal average. Various Niseko companies saw this as an opportunity to encourage guests to come to Hokkaido instead.
Saoka Wakasugi from Travelplan and Jonathan Martin, chairman of Nisade, both say that long time repeat guests who went elsewhere this season have confirmed that they will return to Niseko next year. It is predicted that next season could be the busiest ever, with a bounce-back effect expected to bring in big numbers.