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Golf “Workation” – a viable concept in Japan?

  MGTO Team


Golf “workation” – can this flexible workstyle take off in Japan?

The concept of “workation” was introduced in Japan as early as 2018. The combination of vacation and telework that could ideally be done from some beautiful natural location was promoted by the government for multiple reasons. Fostering a more flexible work style, increasing individual productivity, and combating the growing problem of overwork for Japan´s notoriously hard workers have been some of them. In other words – a work-style reform has been overdue.

Spurring innovation to lift domestic tourism

The “workation” model was also meant to be a potential way to impact domestic travel positively. In Japan, people typically travel on weekends and for traditional holidays, and at insanely busy travel periods such as Golden Week. This concentration of demand has led to soaring ticket and hotel prices or simply prevented many people from traveling at all.  Hence this new work style has been seen to be an excellent way to encourage more people to travel throughout the year and during the week in lieu of these other high-demand times.

The support of regional revitalization of destinations which has been affected by a decrease in population was another upside of the “workation” model. It´s a new pillar of the government´s efforts to reverse the over-concentration of economic and other activities in cities like Tokyo boost regional revitalization.

The implementation of the concept has been quite controversial though. The Covid-19 pandemic catapulted the still largely alien concept into public spotlight though. It has risen to the forefront of Japan’s tourism industry as a means of saving the economy. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga even mentioned the term during a government tourism strategy meeting as a way to reinvigorate the virus-hit sector. Tourism fell virtually overnight by an astounding 99.9% in Japan when the borders were closed for foreign tourists. That´s why this “workation” model has risen to the forefront of Japan’s tourism industry as a means of saving the economy. Observers and critics believe that this hybrid working style will be too challenging to adopt. It is too radical and raises a raft of thorny labor questions. Therefore, it is still a long way to go before such a practice can take hold in Japan.

Wakayama was the first prefecture to launch a “workation” project. But Mie Golf Tourism Organization, keen and passionate to spearhead innovative tourism concepts, has put the “workation” concept to test in golf.

Tsu Country Club – the ideal golf “workation” getaway!

MGTO is proud to be considered the pioneer of the golf “workation” concept in Japan. In collaboration with visionary Nobuhiro Kojima, owner of Tsu Country Club, MGTO organized the very first boutique golf “workation” fam trip.

Three people – 2 ladies and one gent between their 30ties and 50ties with top C-level as well as consultancy jobs – participated in this unique fam trip.  The objective of this government supported fam was to learn about the positive effects and impact of the “workation” concept.  Does “workation” work well to improve productivity?

Is “workation” a way to innovate the old working style model? Can the quality of work be maintained when working at a golf resort?  Will the empowering environment and the exchange with other attendees contribute positively to my work output?

The 3-day long fam included both scheduled activities as well as lots of time where participants could conduct their own business and implement their typical daily agenda. Business lunches and dinners in the group, a round of golf at Tsu Country Club as well as golf practice sessions were part of a comprehensive itinerary.

The valuable feedback of the participants was overwhelmingly positive:

“Playing or practicing golf between working time blocks refreshes your mind, more tasks than normal could be accomplished”.

“Launching the “workation” concept will not only improve productivity but stipulate a stronger engagement from employees”.

“The quality of work could certainly be maintained at the golf resort. Infrastructure including WIFI were strong, the environment was empowering with many working spots to choose from”.

…were just some of the participants´comments.

Ms. Mihoyo Fujii, President of K.K. Business Plus Support, a Human resources development consulting company, even mentioned that her mindset about the “workation” concept changed.The meaning of “workation in Japan might be considered as “working during vacation”. I, however, tried to switch my mind consciously and associated a different meaning meant “changing places to work” to the “workaction” concept. It certainly worked well for me, and I realized the benefits of it for the first time”

She even suggested that “Workation” venues such as hotels and golf courses and the host can take over the role as a facilitator and concierge of these “workation” meetings, foster knowledge exchange across industries between the participants. A business platform can be created where both private and business sector can discuss and solve regional issues and stipulate innovation.

Ms. Yuriya Naito, Adviser, K.K. Carbon Free Consulting, New business supervise director, Outdoor fitness K.K. and CEO of Blue Frontier K.K., who has had some “workation” experiences for more than 10 years due to her intense international travel touted the same horn and encouraged anyone to be open-minded to this new workstyle.

In a nutshell, participants fully appreciated the “3 workation days in Mie, enjoyed the change of the new inspiring environment and were fully convinced that their productivity improved tremendously.

Are you ready to try this new working-style concept?

It may still take some time for many Japanese people to embrace this flexible “workation” working style. The unstructured nature of Japan’s white-collar work, corporations’ failure to embrace technology needed for this workstyle, and the demand for in-person interaction among employees and with external clients and suppliers is very strong in Japan, especially among older and smaller companies.  But the society is slowly changing.

Mie Golf Tourism Organization, extremely happy with the results of the first ever golf “workation” fam trip in Japan, is keen on advancing the concept even more. Another golf “workation” fam trip is already in the pipeline!

Who will be joining us next time?