Will Technological Experiences Replace Timeless In-Real-Life Experiences?

Kyoto is a destination that Shuhei has had a particular vision for over the past 3 years. He wants to grow the DMO to become a great asset to Japan.

Kyoto is a destination that Shuhei has had a particular vision for over the past 3 years. He wants to grow the DMO to become a great asset to Japan, with 1,500 organisations and companies working towards challenging overtourism in Kyoto alongside the pandemic.

Kyoto is a destination that Shuhei has had a particular vision for over the past 3 years. He wants to grow the DMO to become a great asset to Japan, with 1,500 organisations and companies working towards challenging overtourism in Kyoto alongside the pandemic.

Current Kyoto

Kyoto covers an area of 828km² with a population of 1.5 million people. It teems with Japanese tradition, being home to plenty of heritage sites. Among the pillars of Kyoto's economy are above all culture, arts and religious sites.

However, with no overseas tourists and a significant drop in domestic travel over 2020 due to the pandemic, the hospitality sector has experienced its most significant hit. In particular, the pandemic started right at the height of Japanese travel, the famous cherry blossom viewing season.

Shuhei outlines the 4 phases that Kyoto will be taking in their road to recovery.

Phase 1 - Recovery of Local Tourism

Phase 2 - Recovery of Domestic Tourism

Phase 3 - Recovery of Asian Market

Phase 4 - Entire World Returns to Kyoto

The goal in recovery is realistic, as Kyoto cannot return immediately to the same place it was before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, Kyoto was struggling with mass tourism and overcrowding, causing friction with locals. With the emphasis on public safety, the focus is now on reducing the negative impacts of tourism coming out of the pandemic.

Kyoto's digital transformation is at the forefront of this initiative, and a specific plan has been put into action, which develops along 4 directions. The 4Ds model is as follows:

Distance reflects the distance between tourists and locals

Demand represents the spread of tourists in accordance with producing demand

Delivery is directed towards the presentation of Kyoto to prospective visitors

Digital is the objective to implement online experiences.

E-commerce and VR technology has particularly stood out to Kyoto, and as such have become important pieces to realising the objective of the DMO. Though there are many angles a DMO can take with these new avenues, they aim to be smart with their economic decisions, which includes maintaining the personal real-life experience unique to Kyoto alongside new, digital opportunities.

As a solution, Shuhei and his colleagues have developed a bottom-up approach to digital transformation, the aim of which is to change the mindset of local businesses in order to bring in a digital approach while maintaining an authentic real-life experience.

The Ninnja-ji Temple is a world heritage site that has traditionally attracted large groups of visitors, however, since the pandemic, the DMO has worked with the temple in order to create an online reservation system and personal tours with the monks of the site. There were concerns over splitting interest between online and spontaneous visitors, however with fewer, more controlled groups of visitors, they were able to enforce social distancing easier as well as add value through guided tours. With an increased revenue due to the tours, the Ninna-ji Temple was able to maintain a profit throughout the pandemic. Online reservation is hardly groundbreaking technology but represents the easy to implement kind of collaboration that Kyoto is aiming for.

Kyoto is currently running a campaign with local businesses to easily display government safety protocols through QR code stickers on storefronts, an initiative that doesn't obstruct the aesthetics of Kyoto's architecture and allows customers to have access to guidelines and give direct feedback to businesses. In an effort to predict crowd levels, Kyoto has also taken to visualising graphs using accrued data with an algorithm provided by Facebook in order to gauge any influx of mass tourism.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
November 2020
About the contributor

Shuhei Akahoshi

Shuhei Akahoshi began his career with a Tokyo advertising agency where he was responsible for international cultural and sports projects.