Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.

date:2020/12/4

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.

The fears of Motohiro Minami, chairman of the Gokaichi Showakai storekeepers association, were realized at the start of May with the advent of the first long public holiday since the government declared a state of emergency. Visitors to Akigawa Valley could be seen enjoying barbecues along the river without wearing facemasks and then leaving trash behind when they went home. Akiruno City Hall received numerous complaints from local residents about the behavior of visitors at a time when people across the country were being urged to refrain from leaving home unless absolutely necessary. “We needed to take immediate action to put local people at ease again,” Mr. Minami recalls.

Visitors barbecuing by the river becomes a source of unease for local residents.

The fears of Motohiro Minami, chairman of the Gokaichi Showakai storekeepers association, were realized at the start of May with the advent of the first long public holiday since the government declared a state of emergency. Visitors to Akigawa Valley could be seen enjoying barbecues along the river without wearing facemasks and then leaving trash behind when they went home. Akiruno City Hall received numerous complaints from local residents about the behavior of visitors at a time when people across the country were being urged to refrain from leaving home unless absolutely necessary. “We needed to take immediate action to put local people at ease again,” Mr. Minami recalls.

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.  Visitors barbecuing by the river becomes a source of unease for local residents.

Adopting the idea of a local business, a coronavirus countermeasures website is launched.

During the state of emergency, even the sight of a car without a Hachioji license plate left local residents feeling uneasy. Mr. Minami believed that it was first necessary to eliminate this sense of unease among the locals before making preparations to welcome visitors back. Even if the state of emergency was lifted and businesses opened their doors again, the fear among the city’s residents, who questioned whether Akiruno City was ready to receive tourists, would need to be alleviated. It was at this moment that Mr. Minami was approached by a local travel company with the idea of establishing a website on which businesses could publicize the measures they are taking to combat coronavirus. Mr. Minami was quick to accept the proposal and soon after an Akigawa Valley coronavirus countermeasures liaison council was established and the “Coronavirus Countermeasures Visualization Project” was launched.

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.  Adopting the idea of a local business, a coronavirus countermeasures website is launched.

Website showing coronavirus countermeasures for an entire tourist area all at once proves to be very advanced.

On June 2, shortly after the state of emergency was lifted, a website publicizing the coronavirus countermeasures taken by tourism companies in Akigawa Valley area was launched. Through the site, local businesses involved in tourism now find they can easily promote their efforts by simply answering an online questionnaire. Countermeasures are categorized by industry, and include: “alcohol hand sanitizers installed,” “disinfection of areas customers come into contact with,” “in-store ventilation,” “social-distancing customer service,” and “staff health checks.” The businesses also posted messages. The project, which is the result of collaboration between the local government and tourism-related businesses, has attracted a great deal of attention. Even on a national level, a website that shows all coronavirus countermeasures taken by businesses across an entire tourism area is very advanced.

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.  Website showing coronavirus countermeasures for an entire tourist area all at once proves to be very advanced.

Zero operating costs and no listing fees — tourism businesses work together to achieve zero-cost initiative.

With the website appealing to both locals and tourists, the increase in the number of visitors to Akigawa Valley after the state of emergency was lifted was much higher than expected but there were few complaints from local residents. Thanks to the cooperation of IT-related companies, not only has the website’s production and server been provided for free, but also the use of the site is free. In other words, the website was created with zero cost. Describing the cooperation shown by Akigawa Valley tourism businesses in building the website, Mr. Minami says with a grin, “As chairman of the storekeepers association, I was very pleased.”

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.  Zero operating costs and no listing fees — tourism businesses work together to achieve zero-cost initiative.

From the perspective of local revitalization, incorporating the opinions of young people and outsiders is also important for coronavirus countermeasures.

With support coming from the likes of Akiruno City Hall, tourism associations, and transportation companies, the number of coronavirus countermeasure posts on the website has jumped from a few dozen at the time of its launch to almost 100, and the site continues to be updated. Why so many people know of the existence of the website is thought to be due to the social media efforts of urban development experts, known as “town managers,” sent by the Tokyo government to promote regional revitalization. “One of the reasons for the success of this project is that we have a culture of enthusiastically listening to and accepting the ideas not only of local businesses but also those of town managers and young businesspeople from outside the city,” says Mr. Minami.

In fact, in his youth, Mr. Minami approached the local tourism association with the suggestion of launching an annual marathon that has now been going for over 20 years. Akiruno City has a tradition of accepting people of any age and birthplace. “It’s important to get rid of entrenched viewpoints and take on more and more new ideas,” says Mr. Minami. For his part, he will continue his efforts to preserve the natural environment of Akigawa Valley while balancing the needs of local residents, tourism-related businesses, and tourists themselves.

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.  From the perspective of local revitalization, incorporating the opinions of young people and outsiders is also important for coronavirus countermeasures.