Wagyu Olympics succeeds in encouraging post-show extensions in Tohoku

Agents ride on the Wagyu Olympics to promote travel to the reputationally-damaged Tohoku region

Extended stays by event attendees, to generate income for the area still recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, was one of four goals of the Wagyu Olympics, which was held from September 7-11 in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

“Aside from promoting wagyu, this year’s event was about showcasing Miyagi’s nature, history and culture,” said Eiji Kashiba, a representative of the event organiser, the National Wagyu Ability Prize Show Promotion Office. “We wanted visitors to explore the area while (they are here).”

Agents ride on the Wagyu Olympics to promote travel to the reputationally-damaged Tohoku region

Ahead of the event, travel agencies JTB, Kinki Nippon Tourist and Nokyo Tourist Corporation (NTC) set up a joint online and branch venture called The Travel Center, under which each offered model 3D2N packages incorporating sites such as hot springs and museums. Each agency also promoted their own packages.

Many places featured in the itineraries were destroyed by the tsunami, such as the seaside town of Ishinomaki and the renowned island beauty spot Matsushima.

It was the first time for the premier beef cattle show to return to the Tohoku region, which Miyagi Prefecture is part of, since the natural disaster and subsequent nuclear meltdown that saw radiation fears cripple the local tourism and business events industry. Much of Tohoku still suffers from what agents describe as “reputational damage”.

While figures from the Japan Tourism Agency show the number of inbound visitors to Tohoku has rebounded to the pre-2011 level, the region has failed to significantly benefit from the country’s recent tourism boom. New convention facilities have been built as recently as 2015 but much of the area’s events trade still relies on business from organisations and companies in other parts of Tohoku.

Wagyu Olympics organisers hope their efforts have gone someway to combat the safety concerns of international visitors and raise awareness of the area as an event venue.

According to Takuji Shimazu, representative of NTC, his agency sold between 7,000 and 10,000 Wagyu Olympics-related packages to trade and public visitors, the receipts of which are still being counted at press time.

Meanwhile, The Travel Center handled US$1.3 to 1.7 million in transactions from model tours.

As well, at the Wagyu Olympics, a Miyagi Zone covering one third of the outdoor space was also in place, offering information on tours, accommodation and sites of interest.

Among the 400,000 attendees were delegations from China, South Korea, the UK, France and the Netherlands.

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