Hi, everyone. Since the border control was eased, we see more tourists from abroad here and there as well as Japanese people hanging around, which is almost like pre-pandemic days. Now, the humid rainy season is about to end the humid rainy season seems to be gone, and the bright blue summer sky makes us feel like going out, doesn't it?
We interviewed Mr. Yamazaki, a creative director of Engi Inc. which runs outdoor projects to offer opportunities to experience the characteristics of each local land, Terroir and asked him how they started their outdoor business, prospects, and recommended attractions.
Please stick to the end.
Shigeyuki Yamazaki / 山崎 繁幸
Mr. Yamazaki was born in Aichi in 1979. During his 13-year engagement in a restaurant review website company, Gurunavi Inc., he learned how the restaurant industry was structured and acquired the management expertise of popular restaurants. Meeting excellent food produced in Japan and their competent producers led him to come up with the business model for the barbecue facilities directly connected to food producers utilizing idle lands.
After leaving the company he belonged to for 13 years, Mr. Yamazaki launched the first location of BBQ TERRACE in 2016, and a total of 28 locations have been opened all over Japan for five years since its foundation.
He also launched "TerroirCAMP", a service to deliver sets of barbecue ingredients to the campground where the ingredient food was produced. By connecting each local camping site in Japan with food producers in the same region, he is expanding the projects to create added value to outdoor tourism.
―Mr. Yamazaki, please tell us about your company's business.
As it's shortly mentioned in my profile, we are working on four projects right now:
Franchising project, "BBQ TERRACE," to offer local-production-for-local-consumption-based barbecue sites connected with food producers by utilizing idle lands;
Food delivery project, "TerroirCAMP," to deliver sets of barbecue ingredients consisting of quality food to a campground located in the same region where the food is produced;
Project for event production and B2B promotion by setting camping sites as platforms;
(We are planning to start) OTA (Online Travel Agency) *1 project to develop touring programs related to adventure tourism*2 working with local governments.
*1: Travel agency operated only online
*2: Travel that includes two or three of the factors: physical activities, cultural activities, and activities in a natural environment
―Please explain the projects specifically and what made you start them.
Firstly, the franchising project for barbecue sites, BBQ TERRACE, was operated to create barbecue facilities where people could enjoy local food based on the local production-for-local-consumption model by utilizing idle lands. Then, the Covid pandemic caused a decline in the number of customers and prevented the project from expanding.
At such time, we had contact from some camping site and were asked to send ingredients. We explained that it would cost more compared to purchasing from other suppliers because of delivery fees and service charges. However, the client told us they couldn't go grocery shopping in any way due to the inconvenient location. That is how we learned there was a need for a service that provides food ingredients to campgrounds.
Reasons why going grocery shopping is difficult for camping site staff are because there is not enough manpower for the low-cost operation and most camping sites are located at inconvenient places therefore grocery shops and stores are not open around a campground.
Thus, we started TerroirCamp, as a service to deliver food ingredients to a camping site in 2021, which is the second project, the food delivery business. However, we think supplying food ingredients is only our first step and believe Japanese food and the natural environment in this country are world-class tourism resources. Our final goal is to establish both as platforms.
About the third one, a project for event production and B2B promotion, we are networking with campground managers all over Japan and promoting collaborating with food makers by showcasing products we want campers to try. Also, we are producing events related to camping.
The latest event we planned and produced was FUJI THAICAMP 2023 held at 富士宮ふもとっぱらキャンプ場(Fujinomiya Humotoppara Camping Site) at the end of May, which was co-hosted by to the campground to the campground Tourism Authority and Embassy of Thailand, and was sponsored by Fujinomiya City. During this event, visitors enjoyed Thailand's fun activities and products, such as culture, food, tour-like experience, physical therapy, Bangkok sauna, and so on while appreciating the view of Mt. Fuji.
For OTA (Online Travel Agency) project to develop touring programs related to adventure tourism working with local governments, we are working on designing custom-made tours which each community can plan as a host. Focusing on travelers from abroad who visit Japan for the worldwide craze, adventure tourism, they will be designed differently from mass tourism by offering local accommodations, including camping facilities; B&Bs; rental cottages, local food available only in the region, local culture, the local natural environment, and local experience to interact with people.
―What kind of problems do you have to carry out the projects?
The problem with camping sites is that they are not fully developed for touring. In Japan, there have been long-used terms considered to be important factors for the tourism business, "顎 (ago: chin as food)," "足 (ashi: foot as transportation method)," and "枕 (makura: pillow as accommodation)." However, neither campground owners and staff nor ordinary campers have such ideas. As for 顎, campers buy food ingredients at supermarkets close to their houses and bring them to the site instead of consuming local food produced in the region where their destination is located. Concerning 足, most camping sites are located at inconvenient places to access, and for 枕, it is not easy to bring a tent and camping gear, especially for visitors from overseas.
Plus, fees for campgrounds are often only hundreds of JPY because most of them are owned by local governments, which means quality service cannot be expected even though the cheap fees are favorable.
The solution, we think, is to create economic effects and local promotions in each local region by developing infrastructures for 顎; 足; 枕 as the additive services at the camping sites and making camping a tourism business. The first step would be making efforts to turn profits from the service of providing local food and drinks to camping sites. As an outside partner, we would like to structure further steps working with local governments and people engaged in this field.
We also think it is essential to develop our tourism business based on four factors: food, transportation, accommodation, and experience as a newly added factor. It is necessary to create the best quality experience-based touring programs just like the one of Niseko that attracts visitors from overseas. Our image is like a tour that offers extraordinary experiences, such as visiting a camping site with empty hands and enjoying activities to interact with the local culture and natural environment along with the best quality meals.
Part 1 ends here, and Part 2 will talk about the difficulties Mr. Yamazaki thinks they have with their outdoor business, business prospects, and recommended camping sites for international residents from overseas.