Writer: Sasha Rajak, Ariel Tjeuw
When you hear the name ‘ANA’ (All Nippon Airlines), the first thing that comes to mind is a high-class airline company that is known by everyone in Japan. Participating once more as a sponsor at this year’s Matsuri-Japan Festival, we visited Mr Sadayuki, the manager of ANA’s Sydney branch, to hear about ANA’s business ventures, its thoughts on the Matsuri, and much more!
Japan has been experiencing a rise in foreign visitors in recent years, so as a response to this increase, what sort of services does ANA offer that are especially catered to Australians, or other tourists?
First of all, we want to demonstrate our respect for Australia. Well, we believe that this is a standard procedure for any airline, but right from the start we have been offering services such as serving Australian wine on flights. Aside from that, we don’t have any service dedicated to Australia in particular, but our aim, whether it be Australian customers or Japanese customers, is for people to know the name ‘ANA’. In 2015, we made the first flight in 16 years from Australia to Japan, which was another venture to promote the ANA name. With regards to the flight itself, we offer a high quality service to every customer. We have therefore been working closely with the Boeing Company on our Boeing planes, in order to meet the demand for ‘Unprecedented Comfort’.
One way of accomplishing this is through increasing the space between seats without inconveniencing our passengers, which we would accomplish through thinning the backrests of seats in Economy Class as much as possible, whilst not reducing their comfort. Other areas include eliminating dryness in the cabin, controlling the air pressure onboard, working to prevent ear aches, and adjusting the brightness of the cabin in alignment with the time zone. We have been able to accomplish these procedures through the considerable cooperation of Japanese engineering and production companies, such as Mitsubishi. Our biggest goal over the past two years, ever since the renewal of the Japan-Australia flights, is to first share our high-quality service with the rest of Australia.
Furthermore, starting from December next month, we are proud to announce a half-year collaboration with Mr Adam Liaw, former Australian MasterChef champion, who will be working on our Australia-Japan service flight meals. Adam is a very unique individual, being a highly-renowned chef despite not even owning a restaurant. He is also the appointed Goodwill Ambassador of Japanese Cuisine from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (in Japan). He is arguably one of the influential icons Australians think of when the word ‘Japan’ is said. In terms of inflight meals, this partnership is definitely something to look forward to, and by concentrating our effort on these sort of activities, we believe it is also another step towards promoting the name of ANA within Australia. On top of Adam being extremely passionate about Japanese cuisine, he admires the little bits of cultural background that form a part traditional Japanese cooking – for example, the varied meanings behind all the individual dishes in traditional New Years meals.
Moreover, the number of Australian visits to Japan has been increasing by 20% or more over the past 5 – 6 years. And in 2019, Japan will be hosting the Rugby World Cup, which must be very exciting to its neighbour Australia, as a country packed with rugby enthusiasts! In the following year, we have the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with the Masters Games taking place in 2021 in Kansai.
In order to complement these international sports events occurring in Japan, we would like for Australia to know even more about the host country itself and, by that same token, us at ANA. As mentioned earlier, our collaboration with Adam Liaw forms part of this, with this partnership being specially offered to all classes – Business, Premium Economy and Economy class.
Apparently ANA is conducting research on how to prevent babies from crying on planes. Could you please let us know more about this research?
Well, we all know that ‘keeping babies from crying’ is close to impossible, however, considering the amount of time our passengers spend on our planes we must keep them from getting bored. Passengers spend 1 – 2 hours in our planes for domestic flights and spend a lengthy time; 8 – 10 hours for international flights. To prevent them from getting bored, we are collaborating with many different businesses and exploring different and innovative methods. Furthermore, planes are ultimately used by the public for transport, thus we must consider the state of all our passengers. Passengers who bring children on board with them may worry that they are bothering other passengers, as many of our passengers are people such as business men. We began this exploration to provide for them, and everyone on our planes, a comfortable and enjoyable flight.
The relief that we feel at being able to travel through the skies without worry frees us up to contemplate other possibilities, such as enjoying trips with our children, doesn’t it? Now, we’ve heard that ANA has continued its 5 year streak of being awarded 5 stars from the SKYTRAX Company’s World Airline Rating evaluation service. On top of delivering a high quality service to your customers, what is the most important objective at the moment?
That would have to be safety. That the plane lands and takes off safely is our obvious priority. However, we also think about other areas, such as how best to look after the heavy belongings of customers at the airport, or how to best ensure that people put on their seat belts when it is necessary – in short, aspects that may be inconvenient to customers, but that we take very seriously.
On a lighter note, every member of our staff is continually polishing his or her skills, in order to provide our customers with the most enjoyable experience, whether that be onboard or at the airport. We at ANA want to exceed the expectations of our customers and give them an experience they can’t get anywhere else. We have been doing this for a number of years, and step by step, our efforts have been rewarded by being the continued recipient of SKYTRAX’s 5 Star rating for 5 years in a row.
On top of increasing the number of visitors, is there anything else you’re concentrating on?
We are placing great emphasis on advertising Japan. Australians have been coming to Japan for many years in order to skii, in places such as Niseko in Hokkaido and Hakuba in Nagano. These places have become synonymous with the idea of going to Japan. The problem is, as skiing is a winter-only sport, the question of how we can encourage people to come to Japan during other seasons arises, as well as to steer them away from the famous, staple cities of Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or Hiroshima. We at ANA cannot achieve this on our own, so we are working alongside JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organisation) and a range of travel agencies. Whether you come multiple times during the year, or if it is only your 3rd or 4th time, we are hoping to continue exposing everyone to the new, unknown places of Japan.
The Japanese government decided on the goal of increasing annual overseas visits to Japan from 240,000 in 2016 to 400,000 by 2020, and 600,000 by 2030, with the intention of attracting visitors from Europe, America, and Australia. Before this, we had been concentrating on attracting visitors from neighbouring Asian countries, in particular the populous China, Taiwan, Korea, and in recent years, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Phillipines. Though considerable numbers have come, there have been fewer visitors from Europe, America, and Australia. The focus is now on continuing to increase the numbers of both first time and veteran visitors.
On top of Japan having a long history, there is plenty of culture, food, nature and tourist attractions in all of the regional areas. We would like to shine a spotlight on those places and showcase them to the rest of the world. For example, there are places that experience few foreign visitors, despite having aspects of great cultural value. If we were able to encourage to visitors to come, our next point of focus would be to enhance the area. For example, making the town signs easier to understand, or enhancing their ability to welcome tourists. Accomplishing this would undoubtedly bring numerous benefits for all.
Through my job, there are many times where I interact with foreigners who go to Japan and they tell me of places which I have never heard of before. Are there any places that you would like to recommend to tourists?
Kumano Kodou and the North-East parts of Japan are gaining popularity recently due to their plentiful nature which has remained untouched by people. I recommend going to these places when it is Momiji and Green season. This goes back to what I said before, but each country has its own areas where its own special culture exists. In our case especially, Japan takes pride in preserving our culture and I believe there will be plenty of opportunities where foreigners will be able to see Japanese culture in future. If people come and visit these places, tourism will spark, jobs will increase, and, as a result young people will come and settle down in these areas as they have much love for their birthplace. I believe this is the benefit of tourism on these smaller towns. Our goal is to have 40 million tourists come to Japan in 2020 and 60 million tourists to come in 2030, which seems achievable as Japan has plenty of activities that will meet the expectations of tourists.
Please tell us more about the planes that you use. At the moment you are using the newest Boeing model, the Boeing 787, however, are there any plans to use air buses?
At ANA we generally use Boeing models, however we are planning to use air buses; models A320 and A380, when travelling between Hawaii and Japan.
I see, thank you very much. Now, just over two years ago, ANA joined the Matsuri Sydney as one of our sponsors. In response to this anniversary of sorts, do you have anything you would like to comment on? Also, what are you plans for this year’s Matsuri?
That would have to be setting up booths and enjoying all the visits we receive. When we first participated in the Matsuri, back in 2015, it had been just a month (in September) since we had restarted the Japan-Australia trips. So in that sense, it became a very significant PR opportunity for us! Also, as the people who attend the Matsuri Sydney are usually those with an interest in Japan, it was also a very good opportunity for us at ANA to highlight our appeal. With regards to this year’s participation, it will generally take on the same shape as in previous years, only with the addition of informing people of new ventures, such as the collaboration with Adam Liaw.
One final question, what is ANA expecting from this Matsuri? And could we please have a word to the staff and participants of the Matsuri?
I mentioned this earlier, but I wish for Australians to know more about Japan and its culture, and for ANA to be the bridge that allows this to happen. I am curious to know how this will happen through Matsuri Sydney. The word ‘matsuri’ means ‘festival’, and festivals occur all over Japan in the form of Summer Festivals, Autumn Festivals and the Buddhist Bon Festival. As a result, the notion of ‘mastsuri’ is essentially a symbol of Japanese culture and it would be great for Australians to know and understand the hard work and energy put into upholding the great spirit and rich tradition that festivals hold in Japanese culture. By having the want to know more about Japan as a base, through this festival I believe that many people will develop their own perspective of Japan and wish to explore more about Japan and it’s culture.
Thank you for participating the interview.
We would like to thank Mr Sadayuki, who was very welcoming, and constantly smiled throughout the entire interview. As a side note, his business card was very unique – a smiling caricature of himself and a kangaroo holding the Australian national flag was pasted on it!
Mr Sadayuki’s wish to become the connecting bridge between Australia and Japan, as well as share Japan with the rest of Australia, was a passion that burned brightly – and we at Matsuri in Sydney feel much the same way! There is less than a month until the matsuri day itself, so let’s all look forward to and enjoy it together!