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Hiroshima Prefecture Takes Aim at Asian Markets With New Initiatives

The Hiroshima Tourism Association (HIT), which takes charge of destination promotion for the Japanese prefecture, is intensifying efforts aimed at Asian travel markets, with the launch of the HIT Hiroshima Tourism Ambassador programme and an adventure tourism push into the Seto islands.

The Hiroshima Tourism Ambassador calls on travellers who are fans of the prefecture and first-movers in travel ideas to share their destination discoveries with communities around the world using various media channels. Approved tourism ambassadors will be invited to monitor tours and be given an appointment letter plus their own official business cards.

The programme was first introduced in October 2020 to both the domestic and international markets. Despite not being actively promoted then, the programme has since gained 18,000 tourism ambassadors. More is being done now to call for registrants – a community site for HIT Hiroshima Tourism Ambassador was launched in Taiwan last year while the same was created for Singapore this year.

Yamabe Shotaro, chief producer and executive director of HIT, hopes that these travel influencers will impress upon potential visitors that the prefecture has far more exciting and endearing tourism experiences than what the public has come to know of Hiroshima.

Yamabe told TTG Asia: “There are some strong preconceptions about Hiroshima as a tourist destination. It isn’t just Hiroshima’s atomic bomb history that influences travellers programme choice; many only know of Miyajima (for its iconic giant torii gate that is partially submerged at high tide) even though the prefecture has so many other amazing islands in the Seto Inland Sea; many come to eat our oysters and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes cooked on a hot plate), but we also have very good local beef and fresh seafood, just to name a few.”

To entice deeper exploration of its many destinations among Asian travellers, HIT is kicking off a campaign that highlights island-hopping around the Seto Inland Sea.

“Seto islands are the best charm of Hiroshima Prefecture. Not only do they have stunning scenery, they are also part of the prefecture’s long and established history,” he opined.

“Our culture and history may attract the more experienced travellers, while our scenery may appeal more to the younger ones. Our Seto islands, however, are so versatile that they are suitable for all ages. The islands boast culture, history and scenery, and as a bonus, offer a variety of signature local produce, good food and great sake,” he added.

He defines adventure tourism as one that combines activity, nature, and community interactions.

“Adventure tourism isn’t all about energetic activities,” he said. “Hiroshima’s popular sport is currently stand-up pedalling and shower climbing (climbing up a flowing river). However, glamping in the mountains and coastal areas is also a form of adventure, and so is a journey to the local markets to meet local producers and pick up the morning’s harvest before learning to cook a local meal.”

With the introduction of the deluxe high-speed sightseeing cruise line, Sea Spica, three years ago, Yamabe believes that it is easy for international guests to get around the Seto Inland Sea and discover interesting islands like Okunoshima, which is also known as rabbit island; Setoda, a town that offers a plethora of activities, from lemon picking to scenic cycling; and Mitarai, where traditional Japanese architecture has been preserved to offer visitors a peek into the past.

Yamabe said: “We intend to communicate this to the Asian markets. Asia is not the prefecture’s top source market; Europe and the US are, and promotions have traditionally been focused on these two regions. We are working to step up attention on Asia – specifically Singapore and Hong Kong – while maintaining our commitment to Europe and the US. This will allow us to grow our international arrivals and spread demand across the prefecture.”

Hiroshima currently ranks in the 35th to 40th range in terms of share of the Asian traveller market in the whole of Japan.

“This only means the prefecture has a lot more room to grow,” he remarked.

Furthermore, to build interest in longer stays and deeper exploration of the prefecture, HIT is collaborating with airlines, local train companies, and tour operators to create innovative travel packages.

HIT will carry these messages of welcome and creative touring ideas when it participates in overseas travel fairs and international travel trade shows. It is also planning its second B2B trade engagement event for this year.

Source : TTG Asia