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Japan seeks regional revitalization through digital tourism

The Japan Tourism Agency is conducting trials at five locations to promote local revitalization through new tourism services using digital technologies.

In some of the experiments, a quick response, or QR, code and a facial recognition system are being used to encourage people visiting large-scale event venues and other facilities to tour nearby areas and spend more on goods and services.

The Kashima Antlers, a team in the J1 top division of the Japan Professional Football League, or J. League, attracted some 20,000 spectators on average for its matches held at its home stadium in the city of Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2019. But this had little effect in boosting the local economy as many spectators tended to return home soon after matches without visiting nearby facilities.

In a test conducted for three days last month when Antlers matches were held, people were allowed to obtain points by scanning a QR code at some 40 locations near the stadium, including restaurants, souvenir shops and roadside rest areas using their smartphones and exchange the points for Antlers goods, such as jerseys and towels. The QR code was scanned over 3,000 times, far more than the target of 2,000.

“Usually, I only visit a restaurant after a match, but I went to a roadside rest area and two other locations” during the test period, a 56-year-old Antlers supporter said.

In the areas around the five famous lakes known as Fuji Goko in Yamanashi Prefecture, in November, Fuji Kyuko Co. started to sell a digital ticket that can be used to pay fees for some 30 tourist attractions, including Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in the city of Fujiyoshida, and railway and bus fares. A facial recognition system has also been introduced for the convenience of tourists.

“We’ll explore the possibility of offering broader services, such as by expanding the scope of facilities” where the digital ticket can be used, Masao Amemiya, a Fuji Kyuko executive officer, said.

The Japan Tourism Agency is planning to continue similar tests in fiscal 2022, which starts next April.

“Our goal is to establish a business model that makes it possible to continue operations without relying on state subsidies,” an official at the agency said.

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