Businesses look to attract more foreign tourists to rural Japan

Some Japanese financial institutions and other businesses are collaborating with local municipalities to attract more foreign visitors to rural Japan by offering unique tours and useful information. In one such tour last year organized by Japanese credit card company JCB Co., local banks and the local government, about 30 travelers from Taiwan visited a local fishermen's cooperative near a bay in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, to sample fresh sashimi. The tour, sold by travel agency JTB Corp., mainly targets JCB credit card holders in Taiwan. "We hope to encourage our 24 million card holders 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 from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The government aims to boost the figure to 40 million in 2020. The city of Okayama in western Japan also collaborates with local financial institutions to boost the number of tourists 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 by 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. Tokio 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 and other problems, 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 by some 30 writers from Taiwan and Hong Kong living in Japan. Its articles cover various topics from filming locations of popular Japanese TV dramas and marine activities in the country's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, to a cycling tour in the northernmost prefecture of 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.

11 hours ago | KYODO NEWS

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