Fukushima to subsidize 14 groups for plans to draw foreign tourists

13 October 2017

The Fukushima prefectural government is set to assist private-sector organizations in hot-spring resorts, tourist spots and other places seeking to attract visitors from abroad. On Oct. 12, it adopted "inbound travel acceleration package projects" for integrated subsidization of tourist-attracting programs in the software and hardware segments drawn up by 14 groups, including local tourism associations.

The local government will bear all expenses of software projects, such as the development of a hands-on experience program for foreign travelers, the preparation of a map for sightseeing tours and the dissemination of information abroad, regarding them as undertakings commissioned by the prefecture. It will cover up to half the cost of hardware projects, including the establishment of Wi-Fi facilities aimed at making Internet searches during trips easy and the display of signboards in multiple languages.

Among the groups selected for subsidization is the Higashiyama Onsen Tourism Association in Aizuwakamatsu city, which plans to develop "samurai" warrior experience programs and conduct an overseas promotion campaign featuring the traditional culture of "geigi" (the local term for geisha). Another example is the Tsuchiyu Onsen Tourism Association for Regional Development Promotion in Fukushima city, which is to foster guides for a shrimp-fishing experience program. Most of the 14 groups are seeking to draw tourists mainly from Thailand and Taiwan. The prefecture will produce a promotional video to publicize local attractions such as beautiful scenery, hot spas, culture and food.

While the number of foreign travelers to Japan is rising as a whole, Fukushima faces the challenge of improving its environment for accommodating visitors from abroad and boosting its allure as a tourist destination. Against that background, the local government has set aside about 110 million yen for tourism promotion in its general account budget for fiscal 2017 ending next March.

According to a Japan Tourism Agency survey covering lodging establishments having 10 or more employees each, the number of foreigners who stayed overnight in Fukushima Prefecture was 71,260 in 2016, a level short of 87,170 logged in 2010, the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

(Translated by Kyodo News)