The brilliance of Japan’s new strategy to boost tourism by viewing problems through the eyes of a foreign visitor lies in its simplicity.
By recruiting dozens of foreigners to visit Japan and “experience difficulties”, the government can get a bird’s eye view, so to speak, about how to make things more travel-friendly for visitors not familiar with the Japanese language and culture.
The official plan is to offer travel allowances to about 100 native English, Chinese and Korean speaking tourists to visit designated cities and present their thoughts on how to make Japan more traveler-friendly language-wise, when it comes to using public transportation facilities, staying at hotels and eating at local restaurants.
Attempts have been made in past years to accommodate other languages in Japan, but they have been haphazard, and there’s no question that English still predominates.
The projected total of visitors this year from China alone, as estimated by the National Tourism Organization, is expected to reach 1.5 million, many of them wealthy tourists seeking Japanese electronics and other goods.
“What we hear is that there really isn’t enough information on things like how to buy train tickets, or how to use the baths in traditional Japanese inns. It’s hard for us Japanese to judge how prepared different parts of the country are and we need people to use as monitors who really don’t know Japan at all,” said one official.
It is not clear at this point how the recruitment will take place. The Internet is being considered as well as surveys conducted by relatives of foreign students studying in Japan.
It is expected that the information gleaned from this project will be compiled by late March of next year by the government as part of a survey of tourism preparedness.
It would appear that when in Japan one may one day soon really be able to do as the Japanese do.