The authorities of Tokyo and New York will work together to drive tourism between their respective cities in an agreement that will run into next year.
The partnership is between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing arm. It forms part of the Tokyo government’s ‘Action plan for 2020’, which involves presenting the city as being “open to the world”, according to a statement detailing the initiative. Both cities will carry a range of material to promote their counterpart, including outdoor, transit and TV advertising and videos.
Moves to promote Tokyo in New York include advertising at bus stops and public WiFi stations, and social media activities via NYC & Co’s accounts. Advertising will also run across CNN and CBS and cinemas and airports in New York and Los Angeles. Promotions for New York in Tokyo include advertising on the Toei subway line and social-media activities via the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau. A spokesperson for the initiative said the creative work for Tokyo was developed in-house, while NYC & Co developed the work for New York. Representatives were unable to provide the New York video.
At a press conference in Tokyo, the city’s governor, Yuriko Koike, also presented the recently developed brand identity for Tokyo, which is designed to highlight the coexistence of history and modernity. ‘Tokyo: Old meets new’ features calligraphic and bold typefaces and a watermark representing the pedestrian crossing in Shibuya, which has become an international symbol of Tokyo.
Koike said Tokyo aims to attract 25 million visitors by 2020 and noted that while the city has had a close diplomatic relationship with New York since 1960, this marks the first time for the two cities to form a cross-promotional partnership. New York drew 325,000 Japanese visitors last year and is aiming for 331,000 this year. Fred Dixon, president and chief executive of NYC & Co, said the two cities share “many things in common”.
In a subsequent panel discussion, Chitose Maeda, city sales director for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, said it’s important to draw attention to “peripheral Tokyo” as well as more central areas, which most promotional efforts tend to focus on. She gave the scenic Tama region as an example of a lesser-known but high-potential destination. “We need to brag about it and showcase it more,” she said, displaying some embarrassment at the idea of bragging.
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Maeda said engaging local communities could help drive awareness of such places to visitors, but did not elaborate on what form that engagement could take. “Tokyoites should understand what Tokyo has to offer,” she said, adding that the city offers diversity even though unlike New York, it is essentially monocultural.
Makiko Matsuda Healy, managing director of tourism market development for NYC & Co and a Tokyo native, agreed that “local input” can be helpful in developing tourism campaigns. “If New Yorkers like a destination, other travellers tend to follow suit,” she said. She said Tokyo should find a way to use assets like street culture and festivals to promote itself.
The 2020 Olympics are widely seen as a trigger for tourism. But Healy suggested openness to visitors is more important than any single event. “More interaction between visitors and locals would help to encourage engagement that will last beyond the Olympics,” she said.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation, nearly 50 percent of arrivals to the country between April to June were repeat visitors. At the same time, cultivating tourism and maintaining harmony is a delicate balancing act, as Kyoto has shown. A surge in visitor numbers in recent years has left the city struggling to cope, and authorities are now working to promote travel during off-peak seasons in an effort to restore balance.