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ASAHIKAWA, Hokkaido (Kyodo) Regional governments are offering bloggers special tour packages in exchange for getting the word out about their local attractions.

Often sponsored by regional tourist associations, the tours tend to be extremely cheap because there is a string attached: that participants post the details of their trips on their blogs.

“This kind of tour is a good chance to publicize our attractiveness to travelers,” one tour organizer said.

Tours have been mainly sold by travel agencies, but there has been a rise in the number of tours arranged on a local level, said Yusuke Abe, an official in charge of promoting tourist spots at the Tourism Agency.

“These tours are a new form of publicity that exploits bloggers’ ability to transmit information,” he said, adding that coming up with these tours and making them attractive is necessary to boost tourism.

The tourism association in the town of Rishirifuji on Rishiri Island in the Sea of Japan, west of Wakkanai, Hokkaido, sponsored a three-day tour that cost ¥10,000, including transportation and lodging, earlier this year on condition that the participants would blog about their experiences.

“It’s to shore up tourism in the winter period, the off-season for tourism,” an association official said.

To attract people living where there is little or no snowfall, the association targeted bloggers in the Kanto region. Applicants filled the target number within a few days.

The participants took in the island’s attractions, including a seafood barbecue and snowshoe walks in a snow-covered forest. One participant blogged: “You can see such awesome sights only here.”

The Wakkanai tourism association plans to continue sponsoring similar winter tours in the future.

“We would like people who don’t know the island to visit and publicize their experiences,” an official of the association said.

The Niigata Prefectural Tourist Association has been sponsoring tours targeting bloggers outside the prefecture since 2007. Participants pay only their transportation fees.

The bloggers are fed seafood and local farm produce and are taken around to the prefecture’s major scenic locales.

“We aim at making our prefecture better known and increasing the number of tourists through word of month. We are promoting our attractiveness from the consumer’s point of view, and not through information we provide ourselves,” an official said. “We welcome their opinions because of their objective assessment.”

Gifu Prefecture and the town of Amacho, Shimane Prefecture, sponsor similar tours.

“The bloggers who joined the tour became friends and have visited here again together. This is an unexpectedly favorable effect,” said an official at Amacho’s tourism association, which offered a three-day tour free of charge.

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