The Reconstruction Agency is developing a “New Tohoku” Project to promote tourism in Tohoku. As part of the project, SUNNY SIDE UP Inc. started the “Muslim-friendly Tohoku” campaign on November 1 and is operating the “Muslim-friendly Tohoku” PR (public relations) Japan representative office.
The campaign is aimed at establishing infrastructure necessary to receive Muslim inbound traffic in six prefectures of the Tohoku district. Travel products were developed to cater to major Muslim countries which have stable economic growth (i.e. Indonesia and Malaysia) in order to attracting tourists from these countries. “Muslim-friendly” workshops were held at major hotels in Tohoku to deepen the understanding of the concept in order to create and develop new “omotenashi (Japanese-style hospitality)” service to welcome Muslims. As a result, facilities that introduced prayer rooms and “Muslim-friendly” meals were secured in Tohoku, and now, information about the campaign for the Muslim market is available.
Behind the development of the project is an increase in the number of Muslim people visiting Japan. The number of tourists to Japan from Indonesia, in which Muslims are said to account for 90% (about 200 million) of its population, and from Malaysia, whose official religion is Islam, grew nearly threefold over four years from 2012 to 2016. Therefore, even Japan’s inbound tourism market can no longer ignore Muslims who account for a quarter of the world’s population. Despite the situation, there were only two lodging facilities throughout the six prefectures of Tohoku that could provide Muslim-friendly meals as of March 2017, according to a study conducted by Halal Media Japan. For this reason, efforts were made to quickly understand what Muslims need, to be able to provide “omotenashi” to Muslim tourists ahead of a further increase in Japan’s inbound tourism market that is expected toward 2020.
The “Muslim-friendly Tohoku” PR Japan representative office is looking to further increase the number of facilities taking part in the campaign, while enhancing tourists’ experiences of “Muslim-friendly Omotenashi.” Model tours featuring Tohoku’s unique history and nature will be created to compete with the well-recognized “Golden Routes” (i.e. Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and Kyoto), and the information on “Muslim-friendly” facilities and tours is introduced through websites for inbound tourists such as JAPANiCAN.