Daily Yomiuri OnlineKansai & West - Ways of making the world feel welcome
Story by Hiroko Ihara
February 4th, 2010
TANABE, Wakayama--Canadian Brad Towle is working to improve local hospitality for foreign tourists visiting Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes by promoting the use of English among local tourism-related businesses.
Towle, 35, an employee of the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, has offered training in foreign guest hospitality to workers of local inns, restaurants, bus companies and shrines.
He has given them English menus and lists of simple sentences handy for talking to foreign visitors, based on the belief that improving hospitality is a key to boosting local tourism.
"If tourists come before you're ready to accept them, they might leave with a bad impression, and they won't come again," Towle said in Japanese. "They might also share their disappointment on the Internet, and we want to avoid that."
The bureau is now considering helping organize tours for these travelers, and its approach has attracted the attention of the tourism industry and the central government's Japan Tourism Agency.
The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes straddling Wakayama, Nara and Mie prefectures were listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2004 along with the sacred sites in Kii Peninsula such as Koyasan and Kumano Sanzan, both in Wakayama Prefecture.
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