Tourist safety status system planned in Japan

Tourist safety status system planned in Japan

A new safety confirmation system available in multiple languages will likely be introduced in the nation ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, enabling visitors from abroad to post their safety status on an official website should a disaster occur, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Using the system-which is to be jointly developed by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and Secom Co.-foreign visitors will be able to post information such as their whereabouts and health conditions on a designated website so their family members and governments can confirm their safety, sources said.

The planned system is expected to be available as early as fiscal 2015, according to the sources.

The system will also provide disaster and evacuation information in about 20 languages, including English, Chinese, French and Arabic, to e-mail addresses preregistered by visitors from overseas.

The development of the system is part of the government's efforts to double the number of visitors to Japan to 20 million by 2020 compared to this year by giving them a sense of safety. Many foreigners have the impression that Japan is disaster-prone due to earthquakes and typhoons, sources said.

The government and Secom, a major security company, plan to cooperate with foreign embassies in Japan on the development of the system. Such an endeavour is said to be a world first, the sources said.

To use the system, foreign visitors must preregister their e-mail addresses before arriving in Japan. They will be able to preregister when they apply for a visa, or directly on a website.

Should a disaster strike during their visit, they will receive text messages written in their native language on smartphone or tablet devices, among others.

The visitors also will be able to post information concerning their whereabouts and health status on the safety confirmation website. Their families in their home countries will also be able to confirm the safety information on the website. Visitors can be informed about the website before coming to Japan.

The government is to offer free access to the system in principle-aside from e-mail or data transfer expenses.

In the case of a disaster, it is essential to send disaster information in the user's native language.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in 2011, many people in foreign countries had trouble connecting to the mobile phones of people in Japan-which made it difficult to confirm their safety.

For development of the envisaged system, the government and Secom plan to use services that have already been introduced by Secom for domestic companies.

They plan to prepare several hundreds of fixed phrases for all anticipated disasters in each language by the end of this fiscal year, in cooperation with universities that accept many foreign students.

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