Japanese skiers being brought to Utah ski resorts are big spenders because of the dollar's devaluation, but they expect good service and want to purchase authentic souvenirs and gifts while they are here.
That's the consensus of three people who, along with 11 other Utahns, visited Japan recently to determine how they could provide better service to the visiting Japanese skiers. The delegation was led by Lt. Gov. W. Val Oveson and included state officials and representatives of hotels and ski resorts.The familiarization tour was sponsored by All Nippon Airways as a way of reaffirming its commitment to a program of flying Japanese skiers to Utah, a project that this ski season year will result in 1,200 visitors. Utah was selected over several other areas.
Osamu Hoshino, director of international development for the Utah Division of Economic Development, said Japan has more skiers than the United States and they are looking at new ski destinations. So far, the ANA program of bringing skiers to Utah has provided positive results.
Once the Japanese skiers are brought to Utah, the hotels, ski resorts and other places they visit need to be sensitive to what type of service the visitors want or what they want to purchase.
Bob Bailey, Utah Ski Association executive director, said Japanese and American skiers have similar ski clothing and both have varying degrees of skills on the slopes. But when the Japanese visit Utah souvenir and gift shops they want to purchase Utah-made items, expensive ones especially.
"They don't want to purchase a Deer Valley ski pin for their jacket and find 'Made in Taiwan' on the back," Bailey said.
Regarding food, Bailey said some ski resort restaurants might consider having some sushi (raw fish and rice cakes) as an appetizer or other Japanese-type items on the menu. Bailey said the Japanese shun salad bars because they don't load their plates with food, but rather like to eat smaller portions more often.
Robert J. O'Neill, Deer Valley marketing director, said the Japanese prefer shorter skis than Americans use so rental companies might consider having some on hand. Rental outlets also need a chart to convert shoe sizes into centimeters.
"The Japanese skier is used to a hassle-free vacation in his homeland and expect the same level of service when he comes to the United States when it comes to taxis or getting the luggage into the room quickly," said O'Neill. He said attracting Japanese skiers and providing good service once they arrive is part of Deer Valley's marketing plan this year.
Hoshino said Japan has embarked on a project to send 10 million Japanese overseas on vacations and the United States is a major destination. Both countries have eliminated the need for a visa while on vacation.
He said ANA has spent $1.7 million promotion Utah skiing among the Japanese, including flying 75 travel agents to the state in the last few months. Another 40 will come in March.
Also, a 17-member film crew will be in Utah in March to film some advertisements to be used in Japan.