From October 19th to 25th, Wakayama prefecture including Mr. Nisaka (the governor of Wakayama), Wakayama assembly members, representatives from private businesses and Ms. Tada (the director of the Tanabe City Kumano tourism Bureau) travelled to Paris, Milan and Rome. The goal was to promote Wakayama as a unique tourism destination.In Paris the delegation visited 5 different tourism related companies, such as the famous guide book company “Michelin” and “Hachette”, along with the tour company “ASIA” (which specializes in Asia).
According to Ms. Tada,
“Wherever we went, it was very clear that Koyasan is an extremely popular place among the French. Carrying 3 stars in the Michelin guide book is convincing evidence to it. Kumano is also a valuable tourist area with 2 stars. From the information exchanges at the meeting with Michelin, I realized the missing link to receive one more star for Kumano: to establish better infrastructure and information to receive tourists from foreign countries.
Therefore our pending tasks would be to have local guides who can speak English or other languages, to improve information signs to support people who walk the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, and to organize information not to confuse tourists. We know that Kumano is a world class destination that deserves three stars, and it was valuable information to help us improve.
In Milano, we visited “FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano (Italian national trust foundation)” and an Italian travel agency called “Hotelplan Italia.” FAI is an organization which contributes to conserve cultural and natural assets. Hotelplan Italia is a large travel agency, with a strong interest in Japan. They are the first company that published a travel catalog focused only on Japan.
In Roma we visited a tour-operating company “ASTOI” and a luxury travel agency “Viaggi dell' Ellefante” which targets only affluent travelers.
In Italy, although interests in Japan have increased, people still hold the false image that Japan is a distant and very expensive country. Wherever we had business talks on Japanese tourism, everyone asked “Are there local guide who can speak Italian?” which highlighted the necessity to improve the quality and quantity of local guides who can speak other language(s).
Thank you very much Ms. Tada for your enthusiastic and hard work during such an intensive promotion trip.