Japan Selects 11 ‘Model Tourism Destinations’ to Promote Regional Areas

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Japan Tourism Agency has designated 11 locations across the nation as “model tourism destinations,” in hopes of encouraging overseas visitors to explore beyond metropolitan areas while in the country.

The sites are characterized as places where visitors can experience nature, history and culture unique to Japan. The government plans to promote the intangible value of regional areas and will provide support to the chosen spots over the next several years.

Intangible assets

Several of the sites were selected for their natural beauty, including the sprawling nature-rich Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido; Mt. Hachimantai, which straddles Iwate and Akita prefectures and is famous for its frost-covered trees; and the Setouchi area around the Seto Inland Sea, which boasts various picturesque islands.

The Hokuriku region, noted for its samurai culture, and the Okinawa-Amami region, where visitors can learn about the traditions of the Ryukyu Kingdom, also were selected.

Last summer, the JTA solicited tourist destinations nationwide that could be marketed overseas and received applications from 62 areas. A panel of experts selected the 11 final sites, focusing not only on areas that were popular before the pandemic, but also on places that could potentially become popular tourist destinations.

“Each of these locations has the potential to improve the quality of wealthy overseas tourists’ stays,” said Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito, when announcing the initiative on March 28.

Over the next several years, the government will support such efforts as the creation of travel packages, training for interpreters and guides, and etiquette-related education aimed at helping extend a warm welcome to foreign tourists.

According to the agency, overseas visitors spent about ¥4.8 trillion in 2019, falling short of its ¥8 trillion target. Only about 1% of visitors who came to Japan spent more than ¥1 million per stay.

Observers say much attention will be focused on whether the agency’s latest venture can increase tourist spending.