The 2016 Hyogo-Kobe International Summit was jointly-hosted on 16 February, 2016 by Hyogo Prefecture, the City of Kobe, and the Kobe Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Consul-General Wols, in his capacity as Dean of the Kansai Consular Corps, performed the role of chairman/moderator for the event. Attendees included Governor Ido, Mayor Hisamoto, Vice-Chairman Atarashi, members of the Kansai Consular Corps, as well as local government and industry leaders.
Opening presentations were delivered on behalf of Hyogo Prefecture by Mr. Mizuguchi, and on behalf of Kobe City by Mr. Kato. Mr. Mizuguchi highlighted recent tourism trends in Hyogo, noting that Hyogo Prefecture is an excellent location for B-class gourmet foods. He mentioned the prefecture’s efforts to connect to the greater Kansai-area tourism network vis a vis projects like the Flower of Kansai Route. Mr. Kato spoke in detail about Kobe City’s current approach to tourism: “focus[ing] on the present by building on the past.” Kobe City’s goal is to focus on “lifestyle tourism in Kobe.” To that end, tourism officials are asking themselves “What is the story of Kobe City?”
Thanks to their speeches, listeners were able to take away a great deal of information about the strategies towards tourism at the prefectural and city level.
Following the Hyogo and Kobe speakers, three presentations were made by members of the Kansai Consular Corps. Consul-General Lombardi (Italy), Consul-General Manapan (Thailand), and Acting Consul-General Hwang (USA) each shared their insight regarding tourism in their own countries and their candid feedback for Hyogo-Kobe (the KCC Executive Secretariat was particularly moved by CG Lombardi, who delivered his presentation entirely in Japanese).
CG Lombardi spoke about Italian tourism, noting how the Olympics provides a great opportunity to improve existing facilities (such as museums).
CG Manapan discussed how tourism contributes to grassroots income in his country, and discussed how the Thai tourism board overcame a challenge regarding brand image in the 1980’s by educating the public. He also introduced current tourism campaigns which emphasize people and culture.
Acting CG Hwang emphasized the importance of commitment, partnership and visibility in tourism promotion efforts. She also highlighted what she thought were strengths (from a tourist’s perspective) and areas for further development regarding tourism infrastructure in Hyogo Prefecture and Japan at large.
Presentations were followed by a lively Q&A in which members of the Kansai Consular Corps provided feedback.
CG Changsan (India) discussed the expectations of Indian tourists and highlighted the need for Japan tourism representatives to combat the stereotype that Japan is 1) too far and 2) too expensive. He also mentioned that the concept of vegetarianism among some Indians is different from that in Japan (depending on one’s beliefs, eggs and garlic may not be considered vegetarian in India).
CG Taguiang (Philippines) raised the point that how a tourist comes to Kansai matters. For example, she noted that tourists who come to Kansai are likely to visit Hyogo; whereas tourists who come from Tokyo are likely only to go to Kyoto. She suggested that Kobe partner with local transport providers such as the JR Shinkansen to enrich routes to Kobe.
CG Binh (Vietnam) informed the panel that Hyogo-Kobe is known in Vietnam for beef and earthquakes. He suggested that one way to expand the image of the area to Vietnamese travelers would be to forge closer cultural exchanges with the cities of Vietnam (“people-to-people exchange”), and also to work closely with the local Vietnamese community in Kobe. CG Binh also noted that many Vietnamese travelers go to India to visit Buddhist sites and proposed that this may be an area to promote in Hyogo.
CG Binh (Vietnam) offers insight from the Vietnamese perspective
A reception followed the event. The Mayor of Kobe opened the evening with a greeting. Governor Ido delighted guests with an impromptu poem he created after hearing the inputs of KCC members. His poem was deftly translated into English on the fly by a very talented interpreter, Ms. Miyamoto. Remarks were also provided by the Chairman of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly, Ambassador Miwa opened the reception with a kanpai toast.
Closing remarks were provided by CG Wols.
Some of the women working before and behind the scenes for Kobe, Hyogo, and Kansai.
The Kansai Consular Corps would like to thank its hosts for their kindness and cooperation in hosting this event.
(written by Angela Troianos, Executive Secretariat Kansai Consular Corps)