Doors open for Cairns trekking business in Japan

(Original article posted March 27, 2019 via cairnspost.com.au, © 2019)

A Cairns-based trekking business is poised to offer exciting new experiences in Japan after recently touring the island of Hokkaido as one of a select group of international adventure travel operators.

Out of 74 applications from around the world, Getaway Trekking was chosen as one of 12 successful operators and thrilled to be the only Australian business chosen for the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) famil earlier this month.

Sue Fitcher, Chief Executive Officer of Getaway Trekking and Adventure School Treks (AST), described the eight-day tour as “absolutely incredible” and said it opened many doors for the business to expand in the near future.

“As guests of the Japan Tourism Bureau (JTB) we went snowshoeing, ski shoeing and skiing, we were treated to several 13-course dinners, visited nature centres and three different national parks, and learned a huge amount about the culture,” she said.

“The highlights were just how beautiful Japan is, the culture and amazing food, it’s incredibly safe and well organised, the people are very welcoming and the hospitality is extraordinary.

“We’re really excited about the future opportunities for both our companies. For Getaway it’s a great chance for us to engage with a relatively close neighbour that is in the same time zone.

“We’ll be looking at year-round opportunities for trekking and other activities such as snowmobiling and dog sledding, and combine that with an appreciation of the culture and understanding of the country’s history.

“For the school tour market it’s fantastic because all Australian students are required to learn a language and Japanese – maybe surprisingly – is still the most-taught language in Australian schools.

“We engaged with a local business offering Japanese language immersion tours for young people and discovered that both our businesses are heavily guided by the motto that ‘Not all classrooms have four walls’, so it was a remarkable alignment.”

The famil, organised by ATTA, came as a result of investment by the Japanese government to arrest a decline in the local tourism industry following the 6.6 magnitude earthquake which struck the island in September 2018.

Mrs Fitcher said she only recently discovered the existence of ATTA, which is the leading representative and voice for the adventure travel industry around the world.

ATTA runs fully-subsidised famils for adventure travel operators to a range of destinations with the aim of building partnerships and educating operators about the opportunities and infrastructure that exists.

“The ATTA delegates were a wonderful group to learn from – so incredibly generous with their knowledge and advice, we feel like we’ve found a new family,” Mrs Fitcher said.

Feedback from ATTA as to why Getaway / AST were selected was that they operate in one of the target geographic areas that JTB and Hokkaido Tourism wanted to attract, had demonstrated past capacity to do business, and showed thoughtfulness in their application and capability to develop new product in the short term.

“This is huge for Getaway and AST because we’ve learned how to find the pathways to operating in a big wide world in the future,” Mrs Fitcher said.

“And to find out when I was there that of 74 applications they only accepted 12, and we were the only Australian business, we were pretty surprised and pleased with that.”