Coronavirus countermeasures lead to town’s new PR initiative of a raw tuna online tour
Nachikatsura Tourist Organization was founded in April 2020 as a new body responsible for promoting tourism in the town of Nachikatsura in Wakayama Prefecture. Ahead of this, a regional destination marketing organization (DMO) preparatory committee was established. Just as the tourist organization finally came into being, the coronavirus pandemic struck. With all planned sightseeing and town events canceled, they found out about a raw tuna online tour held as a demonstration that has managed to attract offline tourism.
Immediately after the tourism body was established a state of emergency is declared, and tourists disappear from the popular town
Located in the Kumano area of “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nachikatsura attracts many visitors as one of the top tourist destinations on the Kii Peninsula. In addition to the area’s natural beauty and gushing hot springs, the port at Katsura boasts the biggest catch of tuna in all of Japan. With such a vibrant tourist industry, the coronavirus crisis hit the town hard. The virus even forced the cancellation and scaling down of local events as well as long-established annual festivals and Shinto rituals.
A breakthrough comes with an online tour set up in only a week
It was during this time that a company hosting online tours approached Nachikatsura with the proposal of a Zoom tour featuring the local specialty of fresh tuna as the theme. However, the tour would have to be launched in a week. Within this short time, local businesses that could support the project would have to be recruited and the understanding and approval of related organizations would need to be obtained. “The schedule was extremely tight but I was conscious of launching the tour before anyone else because new initiatives attract the most attention,” says Ms. Hori, Nachikatsura Tourist Organization’s head of marketing. “However, it was difficult for the entire town to reach a consensus in such a short time, so to win support we launched the tour as a “demonstration” that promotes the appeal of Nachikatsura rather than as a money-making initiative,” she says.
Unique to the online content is the circle of affinity it created among participants.
The next step was to develop the tour content. For the “Raw Tuna Online Tour,” local brokers use their knowledge to select fresh tuna, which is delivered to the homes of tour participants along with locally produced soy sauce and salt. The three available sets contain (1) 300 grams of tuna with soy sauce and salt, (2) 500 grams of tuna with soy sauce and salt, and (3) 300 grams of tuna with soy sauce and salt plus three types of meal coupons that can be used at local restaurants. The initial tour, which was developed to attract visitors to Nachikatsura, had a limited capacity of 30 people and was quickly booked up. The first part of the tour introduced the local tuna under the two themes of “The secret to the tastiness of Nachikatsura tuna” and “Environmentally friendly tuna fishing.” In the second part of the tour, a local chef demonstrated how best to cut the tuna to make delicious sashimi. “I wanted to be particular about creating distinctive online entertainment,” says Ms. Hori. The tour introduced the beauty of the ocean and surrounding nature through a live broadcast from the Katsura port. It also included a video of the tuna sales process, from auction to the tuna being carved and shipped to buyers. The climax of the tour was mealtime when participants enjoyed the actual Nachikatsura tuna sashimi that they had prepared themselves. The many comments left on Zoom included, “The soy sauce is delicious!” and “I love the salt!” The conversation among the tour participants grew very lively as they all shared their appreciation for the tastiness of the tuna.
For a convincing and satisfactory plan, the key is to apply analytical logic
As Ms. Hori had expected, the raw tuna online tour attracted a lot of media attention, especially in the Kansai region, and was featured in newspapers and online news and on television and radio. Although the tour was initially launched as a one-time event, the organizers immediately decided to hold another such tour three weeks later. “No one can see the future so no one knows what the right solution is. That’s why a sense of speed is very important,” says Ms. Hori. “For this reason, we were very thorough in carrying out an analysis in advance and establishing a target audience, as well as devising a convincing and satisfactory plan,” she says, explaining the secret to the success of the project. “Anyway, it's important to first give it a go,” she adds. In fact, through persona analysis, the target consumer was set at a 25- to 50-year-old office worker living in the Tokyo metropolitan area who has a relatively high level of personal consumption and use of services and a very high level of intellectual curiosity. The organizers applied the so-called “SWOT analysis” to measure the “strengths,” “weaknesses,” “opportunities” and “threats” regarding the online tour. After sharing the results of the analysis with the tour organizers, the town hall Tourism Planning Division, which has long been involved in the promotion of local tourism, came on board and explained the project to the relevant parties.
New tourism promotion efforts developed with an eye not only on the current crisis but after coronavirus as well
In the wake of the raw tuna online tour, and with the support of Japan’s Go To Travel campaign, participants of the tour actually visited Nachikatsura. This resulted in a lot of information being posted on social media. The method discovered by the initiative of using online tours to generate offline tourism may attract a lot of attention in the near future as a new form of tourism promotion, both during the current pandemic and after coronavirus.