Joy Jarman-Walsh, 51, originally came to Japan in 1991, teaching English, and then communication, business and tourism studies at the university level for 23 years. Last year, she pivoted to a freelance career as an inbound tourism consultant, and now combines that with running “Seeking Sustainability Live” (“SSL”), her multichannel livestream talk show. She lives in Hiroshima.
1. What led you to give up your teaching career to become a consultant? I loved teaching and supporting students but felt pressured to work longer hours away from my family. The promotion path was unclear, and I was limited in study and research options. As inbound tourism was booming, I felt I might be able to find a more rewarding career, have a healthier work-life balance and be able to do more good as an entrepreneur.
2. What have been the biggest challenges and benefits? Everyone told me I was crazy to leave a tenured position, but it felt like a golden cage. The greatest thing is also the scariest thing: There are endless possibilities, but where and how should I focus my targets and enthusiasm?
3. And then COVID-19 happened. How did that affect you? I love communicating with people face-to-face, so COVID-19 isolation has been an adjustment. But once I was forced to collaborate and communicate online, I felt less isolated in what I was trying to do, i.e. promoting sustainability in business and travel.
4. What is “SSL”? “SSL” — “Seeking Sustainability Live” — is a multichannel livestream talk show that is simultaneously published on Twitter/Periscope, YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. The aim is to make sustainability issues more accessible to a wider audience by inspiring, entertaining and informing people.
5. How many people have you interviewed to date? To date, 140. And I will hit the 150th episode by the beginning of December.
6. What kind of guests do you interview? If someone is working to promote culture or heritage for the benefit of the community and/or the environment, they are perfect for the show.
7. Have you had any “whoops” moments while interviewing live? My cats have certainly created whoops moments as they suddenly jump into the camera or run across the keyboard, but the audience seems to enjoy it.
8. What has been the most popular episode so far? Honestly, I learn so much from all the guests, but the most popular talk on YouTube is about restoring a 130-year-old house into a stunning home — that was fascinating!
9. Has any episode been particularly inspiring? For me personally, the Japanese architect who, along with his wife, designed and built his own home to make the most of views of the surrounding nature is one I often think back on.
10. Who would be your “dream” interview subject and why? Alex Kerr would be great — to hear his insights and ask about his ideas for sustainable tourism models in Japan.
11. Any tips for others keen to try livestreaming? In this age of social media, replying and responding to people who support your work, as well as supporting and promoting the good work of others, is key to building a strong brand. Transparency is important to sustainability, so livestreaming is perfect. I would encourage anyone to try to livestream to engage with your audience and build trust.
12. What is the next step for you? I am compiling the interviews into chapters by theme in the hope of publishing a book, or maybe even a series of books.
13. What’s one surprising thing that most people don’t know about you? I was on target to become a psychologist before coming to Japan for “just a year.”
14. What’s your favorite tourism destination in Japan? I could visit the island of Miyajima here in Hiroshima Prefecture on a weekly basis and enjoy it every time.
15. What would you love to see happen in Japan with regards to sustainability? Widen the net for engagement and input on travel and tourism by the government, local authorities, businesses and communities. Japan could be a world-leader in high-quality, post-COVID-19 travel, but it has to balance the needs of locals and visitors. So, planning must include preserving culture, tradition, and benefits to, as well as quality of life of, local residents.
16. What tourism trends do you predict as Japan gradually opens back up after COVID-19? The use of technology for crowd control, longer opening hours to spread visitors out more easily, and greater appeal for off-the-beaten-track travel.
17. Where can you usually be found when you’re not working? Walking, hiking, cycling, beach cleaning — I love spending time outdoors.
18. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were 21? Hardly any issues are black or white; most issues need a case-by-case response.
19. What are your greatest likes and dislikes? I love anything sustainable that supports people and our planet in balance with a long-term view of success. I dislike things that damage people and the planet by prioritizing short-term profits.
20. How does it feel to be the interviewee for a change? Really nice, thanks so much for asking me!
For more on Joy Jarman-Walsh’s activities and her “SSL” livestream and podcast, visit www.inboundambassador.com.
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