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Reconstruction Agency to help Tohoku tourism industry market the region abroad

JIJI, Staff Report

The Reconstruction Agency will help travel firms in Tohoku market themselves overseas to bring more tourism to the disaster-hit region, informed sources say.

The agency aims to help these firms learn how to advertise and organize tour plans tailored to people’s itineraries before the state reconstruction campaign for the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami comes to an end in fiscal 2020, the sources said.

The agency plans to request funds for the tutorial campaign in its budget request for fiscal 2019 starting next April.

Since fiscal 2016, the agency has launched more than 30 projects to help Tohoku’s tourism industry attract more visitors from abroad, including tours centered on folk religions, fruit-picking and Bushido, the moral code of the samurai.

After reviewing the projects in 2019, the agency plans to promote popular tours across the region’s six prefectures — Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima.

The agency will help local travel firms and major operators with expertise in overseas marketing lure visitors and promote tours unique to the region, the sources said.

The effort will focus on offering tours that encourage non-Japanese who visit Tokyo and Osaka continue north to Tohoku.

In 2017 the number of foreign visitors who made overnight stays in Tohoku came to about 945,560, up about 90 percent from 2010 and much more from the level it sank to in the wake of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, according to the agency’s statistics. But that figure accounts for only 1.3 percent of everyone who visited Japan. The government aims to raise the figure to 1.5 million in 2020.

Taiwanese topped the list of visitors in all six Tohoku prefectures in 2017, totaling 382,810. Chinese visitors came second in Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, while South Koreans came second in Akita and Yamagata.

Aomori showed the largest improvement, with foreign overnight visitors up four times from 2010.