JTB, the largest travel agency in Japan, has offered packaged volunteer activities tours to support reconstruction of Tohoku after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Almost eight thousand people has participated the tour in two years and now new participants who prefer packaged tour are increasing. However, JTB says the third year,2013 is a challenging year.
More excitement in the tour
JTB has contrived various volunteer tours for continuous customer’s retention every season. In August 2011, five months after the earthquake, they produced volunteer tours for women, whichi prepared delicate work such as organizing lost photos, not the debris removal. It was their challenge to changed the image of volunteer work.
Last year, when the number of participants for volunteer work were declining, JTB has changed objectives of tour as “The study tours for business person”. They prepared experimental activities.The participants join harvesting seaweed during day time and attend sessions with tsunami-survivors. “Participants were glad to sit on the floor roundly, because they can sympathize with survivor’s heart closer than when siting on the chairs.” JTB`s planning chief ,Youko Kageyama says. These small ideas made the tours more valuable.
They planned “excitiement” in the tour. For example,”Otokoyama-honten” sake brewery company, offered unique experience of “underwater storage” that participants store liquor of Sake in the sea. They also held “blind tasting contest” for those who can`t wait to drink. The participants can come back with the “following tour” to put up the bottles they stored from the sea after six months.
What are the next contents beyond reconstruction supports?
Now JTB feels that the tour theme “Recovery supports”, “Listening the story of reconstruction” was losing market attention this year. A new context beyond reconstruction is needed to keep attracting the participants.
“Tohoku”, the northeastern area of Japan, has plenty of resources to attract tourists such as food which is based on a wealth of seafood, and performing culture which has been handed down through the ages, are. Another example is “send off” event to farewell fishermen who set sail in deep-sea fishing, that could be a unique and attractive tourism contents.
However, they are not the most outstanding ones in the competition with other areas in Japan. Isao Sugimoto’s JTB Corporate Sales Executive Officer says, “Because there is no one and only content, we need to contrive, like combining multiple resources as one.content.
A good example is “Most beautiful starlit sky in Japan” in Hirugami-Onsen hot spring area in Gifu prefecture. “In a very popular tour, the guests can view the stars at summit of the mountain with no light all, after thirty minutes ride of gondola. Kesennuma, which has beautiful starlit sky as well, has the potential to be the tourism destination” Vice director Mr. Mouri Naotoshi says. . If we combine contents and unique experience of Tohoku, the tours can be more competitive
There are varieties of similar examples like “farming expericnce” and “experiencing local lifestyle” JTB will continue to grope best type of tour within attractions of Tohoku in the future.
Translation by Shiro OguraTweet