The city of Kyoto, visited by over 50 million tourists a year, is boosting efforts to attract wealthy foreign travelers by offering cultural workshops to satisfy their appetite for a deeper engagement with their destinations.
With visitors already at record-high levels, the ancient Japanese capital is shifting focus from quantity to quality in its tourism promotion, targeting the higher spending associated with high-end tourism, especially by foreigners.
According to the city, Japanese travelers, excluding those who made day trips, in 2016 spent about 47,000 yen ($420) per person, about half the 100,000 yen spent by foreign tourists.
"We would like to revitalize our traditional industries and the local economy" by winning the hearts of wealthy foreign travelers, said a city official.
As part of such efforts, the city, in partnership with the city of Kanazawa, another major Japanese tourist destination, organized a study tour for American travel agents selling trips to rich customers in November.
In Kyoto, two women were introduced to cultural programs such as putting on kimono at a kimono rental shop, visiting a sake brewery and experiencing a tea ceremony. The city hopes the pair will organize travel plans based on their experiences in Kyoto.
"Wealthy tourists have a strong intellectual appetite. They want to experience unique traditional culture in their destinations by directly communicating with local experts," said Takeshi Tanaka, an interpreter-guide authorized by the city.
Some Buddhist temples in the city have started offering meditation classes in English for a small number of people and more craft centers are giving workshops in which visitors can produce Japanese folding fans and pottery while talking with artisans. These places have proved popular among wealthy foreign travelers, Tanaka said.
The city also set up an organization with other Japanese localities including Sapporo, Nara and Ishikawa Prefecture in April 2016 to jointly attract wealthy foreign tourists.
"In the past, tourism promotion was done by each region in Japan and lacked an attitude to promote the whole of Japan. We will work together to bring more foreign travelers by combining the attractiveness of each destination," a Kyoto city official said.