National / Social Issues

Nara targets gay tourists with new focus on LGBT economy

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

The city of Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, will target LGBT tourists from Japan and abroad from April 1.

Plans include earmarking ¥2.08 million in the budget for the next fiscal year to inform hoteliers and innkeepers and other businesses about LGBT culture and how to make same-sex couples feel welcome, the city said.

In addition, Nara has said it will join the Florida-based International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. It will be the first Japanese municipality to become a member.

“The impetus for learning how to attract more LGBT tourists was a 2014 film festival held at Nara Women’s University that featured LGBT-themed films,” said Fumio Komada, a Nara official involved with tourism promotion. “We decided to do something to appeal to tourists from that community.”

The budgeted funds will be used for seminars for area businesses interested in attracting more LGBT customers, and the city will seek advice from the association on specific tips for improving service, especially for LGBT couples from overseas.

IGLTA was founded in 1983 by gay and lesbian travel agents and now operates in over 80 countries.

Nara’s decision comes as municipalities around the country look for ways to reach specific tourist markets. Nara hopes to attract many of the same kinds of tourists who visit the temples and shrines of Kyoto, about an hour away by train.

Kyoto has recently made more efforts to cater to LGBT couples, with both the Hotel Granvia and Kyoto’s Shunkoin Temple now offering same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Over 14 million people visited Nara in 2014, only a 2.5 percent increase over 2013. But there was a big increase among foreign visitors. A total of 630,000 came to Nara in 2014, a jump of 45 percent over 2013.

Last year, a survey by Dentsu estimated the domestic market for goods and services for LGBT people was around ¥5.9 trillion.