Yokohama, Japan, looks to 2019 Rugby World Cup
YOKOHAMA, Japan – Tourism-related businesses and others in Yokohama, which will host the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, are looking for ways to attract rugby fans coming from around the world.
Earlier this summer, about 80 people from tourism-related businesses, including hotels and restaurants, learned about how to promote local tourism to win the hearts of rugby fans at a seminar held in the city.
Lecturers from Ireland and Britain – rugby powerhouses – explained about the atmosphere of the event and the behavior of rugby fans, with participants taking notes.
One of the lectures mentioned that since the fans enjoy drinking, places where they can drink all night long after a game without going back to their hotel are necessary. Another recommendation was to provide information via social media and communicate in English.
The seminar was organized by the Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau. The official in charge explained why they held the seminar, saying, “To woo visitors to our city, it is important to learn about the World Cup and satisfy the needs of fans.”
The Rugby World Cup will run for 44 days, so it is expected that many fans on long vacations will come to Japan and enjoy traveling around the country.
“We are feeling things out in making preparations for the World Cup, because it will be the first experience for us,” said an official of Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu in Nishi Ward. “We were able to get a hint about how to offer services that meet the needs of fans, as well as what our business hours should be.”
Yokohama must become a more convenient city for a trip in which visitors can travel around and enjoy tourist sites – this is what most tourism business operators consider a challenge ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
According to a survey conducted by the Yokohama city government, 36.31 million tourists visited the city in 2017, but just over 10 percent of them, or 4.62 million, stayed overnight.
Given this situation, Yokohama Haikara Kimono Kan (Yokohama Kimono Station) has successfully attracted many tourists with innovative ideas. Located in the Silk Center Building in Naka Ward, the company provides a one-day rental of hakama Japanese traditional pants, where visitors can choose their favorite hakama at a rental fee of 9,000 yen, and other items. They can also be given assistance from store staff with putting on hakama and then freely visit tourist spots in the city such as Yamashita Park and Sankeien Garden. This service is particularly popular with tourists from other Asian countries.
Kimono Kan also offers a popular summer service in which visitors can wear yukata and enjoy going on cruises and other experiences. About 2,000 people participated in this course in 2016, as well as 2017.
Tokyo-based Shinnichiya Co. operates Kimono Kan. Company President Hirobumi Yamaguchi, 47, who was born and raised in Yokohama, explained why he came up with the idea of a hakama rental service, saying, “The stylish ‘haikara’ fashion culture at the time of the port’s opening is one of Yokohama’s attractions.”
“Rather than imitating the Tokyo style, promoting Yokohama’s uniqueness and having visitors experience the city will lead to local liveliness,” Yamaguchi added.
So-called experienced-based tourism in the city is gaining people’s attention. This includes playing with small animals at Nogeyama Zoo in Nishi Ward, experiencing zazen seated meditation at a temple and taking lessons at karate schools.
“We are now in an era of the consumption of services, not the consumption of goods,” an official at the Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau said. “Increasing experience-based tourism sites in our city will be key to encouraging visitors to choose Yokohama to stay on such occasions as the Rugby World Cup.”