Australians have been a long staple of Niseko’s winter crowd. But, recent tourist numbers show a shifting trend as Aussies shun the slopes of Niseko for the ski fields in Honshu.
In 2018, foreign tourists spent a total of 465,000 nights in Niseko. Visitors from Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries in Asia are up, while visitor numbers from Australia are down by much as 20% since 2015.
The operator of a travel company in Sydney reported that room rates in Niseko had increased by up to 150% over the past three years, encouraging Australians to look elsewhere. In recent years, ski areas such as Nagano, Nekoma, Hakuba, and Myoko have been drawing the attention of foreign tourists looking for smaller crowds and less expensive stays.
Another tourist operator said Hakuba is becoming a popular alternative as a foreign-friendly ski town with lots of après-ski activities.
Niseko’s transition into an expensive ski destination has seen the appearance of multi-million dollar ski homes and some hotel rooms going for as much as 1 million Yen (approx. US$9,000) per night. Aman Resorts is in the process of building luxury villas that will come with a price tag over as much as 2 billion Yen (approx. US$18 million) each. Unchecked development in the district has some concerned about the long-term effect on the natural scenery and environment. An increase in applications to drill for hot spring water has led the prefecture to consider implementing a future ban on any future hot spring drilling in the Hirafu district, for example.
In 2018, Hokkaido welcomed 3.12 million foreign tourists – the highest in its history. Approximately 80% of the visitors were from Asia.
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