Ryokan inns continue to draw foreigners to Japan

Ryokan inns continue to draw foreigners to Japan
Japanese ryokan in Hoshinoya in Kyoto, Japan.

In recent years, more foreign tourists to Japan have been attracted by one of the nation's traditional travel charms-ryokan inns.

Aiming to make use of the tourism resource unique to the nation, a symposium targeting ryokan proprietors for the better understanding the needs of tourists was held by Mitsubishi Research Institute (MRI) and two tourism-related organisations in Tokyo on July 22.

According to a survey conducted in February by All Japan Ryokan Hotel Association (AJRA), about half of the respondents were from East Asian countries and regions-Taiwan topped the list with 24.8 per cent of the total, followed by Hong Kong at 11.4 per cent and China at 9.2 per cent. The survey covered foreign visitors who stayed at 34 ryokan across the nation, and there were 549 valid responses.

During the symposium, the proprietor of a family-run ryokan that recently started receiving more visitors from foreign countries discussed the efforts they made to attract them.

Nozomu Shiga, president of Ryokan Wakaba at the Kurokawa Onsen spa resort in Kumamoto Prefecture, decided last year that his ryokan would take steps to bring in more visitors from overseas.

In 2012, foreign guests accounted for only several per cent of all his guests each month. But Shiga, 41, said this year they sometimes exceed 20 per cent per month, partly due to him and his staff taking English lessons.

They also produced menus, inn guides and Kurokawa Onsen resort maps in English, and revamped the facility's English website and booking procedures.

Shiga found that these measures did not cost as much as he expected. "What we should really do first is resolve to bring in more visitors from overseas," he remarked at the symposium.

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