Business / Corporate

Japan's financial firms team with rural areas to offer unique tourism experiences to visitors from overseas

Kyodo

Some financial institutions and other businesses are teaming up with municipalities to attract more foreign visitors to rural Japan, by offering unique tours and useful information.

On one such tour organized by Japanese credit card company JCB Co., local banks and the local government last year, about 30 travelers from Taiwan visited a local fishermen’s cooperative near a bay in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, to sample sashimi.

The tour, operated by travel agency JTB Corp., is promoted mainly to JCB credit card holders in Taiwan.

“We hope to encourage our 24 million cardholders overseas — especially Asian customers — to visit local areas in Japan,” said a JCB official.

Last year the number of foreign tourists to Japan hit a record 24 million, with many of them arriving from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The government aims to boost the figure to 40 million in 2020.

The city of Okayama is also working with local financial institutions to boost tourism through the wider use of credit cards.

Visitors are now able to pay entrance fees for some major sightseeing spots in the city, such as Okayama Castle, with credit cards. The city aims to expand the number of stores and facilities that will accept credit cards.

Insurance companies are also supporting tourism in rural areas.

Tokyo Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. set up a 24-hour call center in July last year to support foreign tourists in the event of sickness or other difficulties, as part of its services for policyholder companies. It offers support in as many as 10 languages.

Tokyo-based Geelee Media Group offers tourism information online, targeting tourists from Taiwan and Hong Kong — many of whom are repeat visitors to Japan.

The company offers articles about local areas in Japan penned by some 30 writers from Taiwan and Hong Kong who live in Japan.

Its articles cover various topics, from the filming locations of popular Japanese TV dramas and marine activities in Okinawa to a cycling tour in Hokkaido.

“We need to offer detailed information which meets the needs of each customer segment to further increase the number of visitors to Japan,” said Koichi Yoshida, president of the media group.

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