In an age where the Far East doesn’t seem so far, over 400,000 visitors from across the globe are set to descend on Japan for the Rugby World Cup this September. Among these will be die-hard rugby fans lucky enough to be part of a corporate delegation, alongside those already based in East Asia keen to take advantage of their close proximity to the major sports event.
Most UK corporate rugby travellers are more used to weekend jaunts to Europe to watch the Six Nations. However, sending employees or clients on corporate trips further afield means a lot of unfamiliar risks will need to be considered. That’s why Healix International, the global provider of travel risk management and international medical, security and travel assistance services, has produced a report to help corporate travellers minimise these risks. It includes guidance on everything from earthquakes to exposed tattoos, typhoons to travel etiquette – and also offers some top tips to companies treating their employees or clients to some amazing rugby hospitality later this year.
So, before businesses unleash the flags and vuvuzelas, what are the dangers facing their corporate travellers and what advice and risk management strategies can they implement to ensure it’s just world cup fever that their delegation catches during their trip to Japan?
Beware of the typhoon season
The Rugby World Cup is due to kick off in the midst of Japan’s typhoon season. Every year, an average of eleven typhoons impact Japan – typically, three of these in September alone. With the season ending in October, it’s the first half of the tournament that’s most likely to be affected.
If fans can play the waiting game and are confident their side will remain in the tournament, choosing to travel in October could make sense. But for those who’ve already got everything booked, the Healix ‘Travel Oracle’ app will alert travellers to in-bound typhoons as well as other major weather events flagged by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Japan is on major seismic fault lines, which means there’s no escaping the risk of earthquakes with 1,500 low intensity quakes every year. In fact, one of the host cities for the Rugby World Cup is Sapporo in Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, which had a major earthquake only last year.
Healix advises corporate travellers to check that their hotels adhere to the strict building codes that ensure they can withstand a high intensity quake. It’s also worth travellers downloading the Japanese National Tourist Organisation (JNTO) mobile app which posts English language notifications in the event of a natural disaster.
Keeping away from crime
Like any major city anywhere in the world, opportunistic crime like pickpocketing or alcohol-fuelled incidents will increase during a major event like the Rugby World Cup, but happily there is a low risk of violent crime in Japan.
In the unlikely event of something going wrong, Japan operates a 24/7/365 Visitor Hotline [(+81) 50 3816 2787] in English. If travellers need to contact the police, the emergency number is 110, though an English-language service might not be guaranteed. In Tokyo, an English-language line runs during office hours. However, Healix experts suggest that it’s worth enlisting the assistance of a Japanese speaker when seeking help from the police.
Say konnichiwa to respect the culture
The Healix International experts also advise the importance of understanding local cultures in Japan. Tattoos are taboo because they are traditionally linked to members of the Yakuza criminal fraternity; those with tattoos may be banned from gyms, onsen hot springs and other public areas. Other cultural sensitivities to be aware of include avoiding public displays of affection which are not common in Japan (that post- winning try man-hug may have to wait). Also, refrain from tipping, it’s not customary in Japan and could be seen as offensive.
Corporates sending delegations of employees and clients to the tournament can familiarise themselves with etiquette tips before departure by using the Healix ‘Travel Oracle’ app. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office website is also a useful starting point for such information.
“With Japan set to be a first-time host of this year’s Rugby World Cup it looks set to be an incredibly popular corporate hospitality destination”, explained Mike Webb, CEO of Healix International. “By publishing our Japan Rugby World Cup Travel Risks Report, we aim to help ease the burden for those organising corporate trips to what promises to be an outstanding sporting spectacle.
“No-one is saying don’t travel to Japan. But with appropriate prior knowledge and risk mitigation pre-travel, any medical and security issues will be far easier for companies to handle in a safe and effective manner once their staff are at the event.”