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Tohoku launches global tourism campaign to bring back arrivals
S Puvaneswary, reporting from PATA Travel Mart, September 26, 2012

THE city of Sendai, Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization, Japan Railways and inbound travel experts in the Tohoku region are coming together to roll out a rejuvenated Welcome to Sendai campaign from April to June 2013, in the hope of regaining tourism numbers.


Campaign details were still being worked out at press time but are expected to be ready by year-end. Unlike the first Welcome to Sendai campaign held in 2008, which was only targeted at the local market, the second edition will have more international appeal as the global audience comes into the cross hairs this time, with Asia as its core focus, said Sendai City’s economic affairs bureau senior officer, Osamu Arakida.


The campaign aims to show that Sendai City, the largest city in Tohoku, is safe from harmful radiation and that business is as usual after last year’s earthquake and tsunami, said Arakida, who revealed that foreign arrivals to Sendai dipped from 90,000 in 2010 to 24,000 last year.


He said: “Sendai and Tohoku are recovering, but arrivals are not yet back to normal. We’ve had charter flights from Thailand and Hong Kong last year, and this is proof that confidence levels have somewhat recovered among the Thais and Chinese.”


However, outbound experts selling Japan remarked that the campaign duration should be extended and details given well in advance for easier promotion.


Desmond Lee, group managing director of Malaysia-based Apple Vacations & Conventions, said: “The campaign should be at least a year long – three months is too short. By the time the details of this campaign are made known and we advertise in the local media, the campaign will already be over. The campaign should also include media and (trade) fam trips so people can see the situation in Sendai and Tohoku for themselves.”


Said Tai Poh Kim, managing director of Hello Holidays, another outbound expert from Malaysia: “Japan is not a cheap destination for Malaysians. It attracts the affluent (travellers) as a five-night programme in Tohoku would cost about RM8,000 (US$2,600).”


“The campaign should have something really special to attract Malaysians to Sendai and Tohoku as both are not as well-known as other popular destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido. Sendai should also (spend) money on international advertising and promotions to make this campaign a success.”


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