Tokyo was voted the world’s most satisfying tourist city for 2013, according to a poll by online travel site TripAdvisor. Tokyo came in first of 37 major world cities for overall satisfaction based on tens of thousands of online reviews by travelers.
That top spot should be a boost for the still struggling tourist industry in Japan. It will surely encourage more travelers to come to Japan in the coming year.
Tokyo received positive reviews in a number of areas that put it ahead of New York City (second) and Barcelona (third) followed by Istanbul, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, Paris and Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Tokyo came out on top in five sections: local friendliness, taxi services, cleanliness, transport and overall satisfaction. Tokyo also came out in the top 10 in another eight areas including restaurants, shopping and suitability for families.
However, Tokyo was ranked lower for cultural attractions and sightseeing activities. Instead of emphasizing shopping only, the tourist industry here should strive to increase accessibility to and information about the many cultural sites in the capital city.
A tourist industry built primarily on shopping is not as durable as one built on interesting cultural attractions. Certainly no one will travel across the globe just to see how clean Tokyo is or how friendly the taxi drivers are.
Tokyo has many sites of tremendous interest, though they are often spread far apart. Building up a tourist industry of long-term viability, not to mention one that locals can be proud of, involves a lot of work to communicate to potential visitors. That hard work of revealing key points and explaining their interest is more important than busing tourists to large shopping complexes.
The tourist industry should also ensure that hotels, restaurants and attractions are ready for people from many different countries.
Most tourists to Japan last year came from Taiwan, China and South Korea. Visitors from those three countries accounted for 68 percent of all tourist spending.
Forward strides have been made in easier transportation and friendliness, but more importantly Tokyo people should learn how to stop and help lost, or even not-yet-lost travelers, as happens in other travel destinations.
Even a short, helpful conversation can mean a lot to a lost traveler anywhere, and become a wonderful vacation memory. Perfect English is not required.
Most travelers are ready to communicate at any level. With the right improvements, a travel industry that is built on human interaction and cultural pride will be one that Tokyo can be even more proud of than the first-place ranking last year.