CHIBA – The Chiba Prefectural Government is trying to lure foreign tourists to spend more time in the prefecture where they land rather than going straight from Narita International Airport to nearby Tokyo.
Gov. Kensaku Morita has flown to Thailand, Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia to meet local tourism agencies and raise Chiba’s profile.
In 2013, 2 million foreign tourists used hotels in the prefecture, but most were near Narita airport and used before or after flights, the prefectural government said.
Chiba can boast of Tokyo Disneyland, the Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex and Naritasan Shinshoji, an ancient Buddhist temple near Narita airport.
Aside from its proximity to a major metropolis, Chiba is flanked by the sea on two sides and has a temperate climate, rich natural beauty and high-quality agricultural goods.
Chiba’s government has made tourism the central pillar of its efforts to revitalize the prefecture and wants to boost tourism spending to ¥1.24 trillion by 2018 from some ¥1 trillion in 2012.
It’s focusing in particular on tourists from Southeast Asia, who have been flocking to Japan since it eased visa requirements for people from the region.
Hotels are backing Chiba’s efforts by offering Muslim tourists places to pray and more halal food.
Chiba has invited university students from Taiwan and Thailand on a trial tour that includes visits to a local shopping mall and strawberry farm, asking them to post pictures and comments on Facebook and other social media.
“The attractiveness of Chiba Prefecture lies in its diverse tourism resources and great accessibility,” said Naoki Shimode, a senior researcher at the Chibagin Research Institute.
“The public and private sectors should join hands to establish a solid framework to attract tourists,” he added.