The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has opened applications for a new summer seminar project that will prepare a cohort of young volunteers to act as guides for the growing number of foreign travelers expected to visit the city ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
“Targeting specifically junior high and senior high school students, we would like to offer opportunities for those who wish to guide foreign tourists and play an active role as tourism volunteers before the Summer Games,” Teppei Fukuda, section chief of the tourism division at the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs, said.
The young volunteers — dubbed “Goodwill Hospitality Ambassadors” — will participate in free, two-day workshops held in July and August during the school summer vacation. A hundred hopeful students will be invited, according to Fukuda.
At the workshops, students will learn a variety of hands-on skills that will help them interact with tourists, including how to serve customers and conduct basic conversations proficiently in English. They will also be given lectures on aspects of Tokyo’s history and culture as part of the two-day program.
As part of their hands-on training, the students will travel to famous sightseeing spots around Tokyo, including the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, Asakusa and Odaiba, accompanied by a licensed guide.
Fukuda said students who completed the seminar would receive an official certificate from the metropolitan government that would enable them to begin volunteer activities from spring next year.
“Goodwill Hospitality Ambassadors will work as volunteers from next fiscal year (starting in April) alongside adult tourism volunteers, whom we already have. They will guide foreign travelers together,” he said.
Some 500 people are currently registered as sightseeing volunteers with the metropolitan government, he added, and their average age is around 60.
The planned summer seminar would be followed by a second session in winter, offering certified students opportunities to practice their newfound skills with tourists in Tokyo, Fukuda said.
For the time being, student volunteers will be limited to guiding tourists inside the metropolitan government building.
“We hope they will be able to act as guides at the observation decks and give short tours of the metropolitan government building, since it will be hard at first for them to step outside to serve as tourism guides,” he said.
Students wishing to apply for the program must be junior high or high school students either resident or attending school in Tokyo, with English proficiency above Eiken Level 3. The closing date for applications is July 16.