TT-990 (Tourism Edition) -- Three Ways to Control the Flood of Tourists in Kyoto

Japan Travel
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S (TOURISM) TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, May 20, 2019, Issue No. 990

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+++ Three Ways to Control the Flood of Tourists in Kyoto

Two and a half years ago, in August 2016, I wrote an article
about the swarming crowds in Tokyo and Kyoto, and a probable backlash
against foreign tourists in coming years. Now in 2019, the media is
thick with reports on the problems that too many tourists cause to the
local goodwill and infrastructure of those destinations. Usually, this
is in the context of too many Chinese tourists in Kyoto, but it is
also increasingly being applied to the swarming of regional festivals
(e.g., Nebuta in Aomori) and events, overloading of urban services
(transport, trash, and parks seating space), and even the
proliferation of Japanese-owned snack shops that sell and encourage
visitors to stroll and eat yummy but accident-prone, sticky food.

In 2017 there were something like 3.53m overnight stay foreign
visitors to Kyoto - the most desirable type of tourist - and some
portion, probably about 10m (our guess based on Kansai Airport
arrivals), of day trippers. So about 14m foreign visitors a year.
While this sounds like a lot, in fact, other medieval cities in
Europe, with equally narrow streets and unplanned city layouts, seem
to cope. Holland's Amsterdam gets 19m tourists a year. London gets
about 20m (2018). And Paris, the big kahuna, about 40m (2017). So
Kyoto in some respects should consider itself lucky.

The most obvious way to deal with the over-tourism of key Japanese
cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto would seem to be to move
tourists away from them and out to the regions, where they are
actually still wanted and needed. The government has certainly made
more marketing money available to such locations, and starting from
next year, we believe there will be a major escalation of funds as the
authorities finally decide how much of the exit tax they are really
going to apply to inbound promotion. But honestly, all the marketing
in the world won't do much if the regions don't start first doing
something about accommodating the extra tourists they are wishing for.
Everything ranging from better access for international LCC airlines
so that tourists don't all have to land in Osaka and Tokyo, through to
providing better accommodation, activities, and payment options across
the prefecture.

In the meantime, tourists would rather go where they know they will be
entertained - Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka.

[Continued below...]

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In Holland, they are following the softly-softly approach. The city
there with the biggest tourism overflow problem is Amsterdam - and
local residents have been getting increasingly vociferous about their
desire the rein the tourist numbers back in. The Dutch tourism
authorities don't want to kill the golden goose - much the same as the
Japanese seem to be thinking - so their strategy is to make Amsterdam
less attractive and less accessible than in the past, while
simultaneously stepping up the visibility, desirability, and access to
secondary towns and cities across the country. For example, last year
they took down the famed "I Love Amsterdam" sign (Ed: shame, my kids
loved taking photos there.) They are also started posting signs every
where as part of the "Enjoy and Respect" campaign to educate visiting
tourists how to behave and get along with the locals - things like not
treating Amsterdam as a party zone and not urinating or vomiting in
the streets - under punishment of drastically increased instant fines.

Of course, this may not work in Japan, where locals love to vomit and
pee just about anywhere, especially after 10pm at night... Oops.

Anyway, the Dutch call their worst type of tourist, "Liam." In
profile, "Liam" comes from the UK, is aged 18 to 24 years old, and
wants to party outrageously in Amsterdam every weekend. The "Enjoy and
Respect" campaign is targeted at him, so it is primarily in English
and posters are plastered all over the airport and public transport
centers helping "Liam" understand that he is being watched. Along
similar lines, the Japanese problem is with "Zhang Wei" - although the
age profile is somewhat older and the basic problems are more cultural
than aged related.

In a reasonably well-defined tourist magnet city like Kyoto, maybe the
answer is to be found in a more draconian approach as is being tried
out in Venice, another iconic city that draws a huge number of both
day visitors and cruise ships every year. In September this year,
Venice will introduce a 10 Euros visit fee targeting the 15m day
trippers (versus people who actually stay at hotels in the city). In
particular, this fee will be applied to the roughly 12m cruise ship
passengers (6,000 ships a year!) who do little more than buy a gelato
or a cheap souvenir and who otherwise spend most of their budgets
onboard. Venice has some even more radical ideas in mind, and plans to
regulate tourist numbers by selling tickets (not just fees) to visit -
offering people who didn't win the ballot to enter on their preferred
dates an option to travel to the city in less busy months.

Another solution example, moving from the scope of an entire city to
just the major attractions (think Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera in
Kyoto), we can look at the Gaudi-inspired Park Guell in Barcelona. In
2013 over 9m people visited the park and reduced it from being a quiet
green space to becoming something reminiscent of Shinjuku station at
11pm at night. Local residents were up in arms over the noise and
inability to take their kids to the park, and the council decided to
close off access and sell tickets for tourists to visit. Although this
meant fencing off a formerly public space, the result was remarkable,
and the number of visitors fell to a much more manageable 2.3m people
annually, with a much better spread of visitors outside the peak
months. Then of course there was the 23m Euros flowing into local
coffers to pay for park upkeep and wardens.

While these solutions are simple and would be based on precedent
overseas, I fear that they could also inspire a wave of greed by
lesser locations that suddenly see ticket selling as a way to top up
their own coffers. We have seen similar herd mentality with DMOs,
precious few of whom will actually deliver any results for the vast
sums being spent. So once the we-can-make-money herd starts moving,
how can Japan control it and not kill the Golden Goose? One answer
could be to require the ticket selling to be licensed by one of the
Ministries in Kasumigaseki: either the Ministry of Land,
Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism (MLIT), which is the parent
ministry to the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), or the Ministry of
Finance, which has power as the controller of the nation's finances.
Either way, I feel it's not unreasonable to ask tourists to pay for
access to the best (but not all) locations that the country has to

In fact, I often tell people that Japan is the "world's biggest
Disneyland" - in that everywhere you look, there is some visual or
taste stimulation going on that is both compelling and a strong
reminder that this is a unique place. Given that, and if the Japanese
government does get a taste for ticket sales of public spaces, then
the next step must surely be season passes, books of tickets, and my
own favorite - fast passes. This would be a lucrative aggregation
business for the JTA, who would become a kind of ticketing,
reservations, and payments clearing house, a sort of public utility
that controls and regulates the monetization and access to Japan's
public tourism resources.

BTW, Tokyo Disneyland had 30.1m visitors in 2017, in a space far
smaller than Kyoto. Just a wild idea, but why doesn't the government
look at putting Oriental Land and Disney's expertise in crowd
management, to work in Kyoto?

...The information janitors/



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