Nara takes a tasty route to event planners’ heart

Nara is strengthening its image as a business events destination, with a bid for a world forum, a dedicated MICE Promotion Office and a new state-of-the-art facility.

Activities will begin in fiscal 2020 (April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021), building on groundwork laid by the central Japan prefecture in 2019; it joined the International Congress and Convention Association and was selected by the Japan Tourism Agency as Japan’s bid city for the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism in 2022.

Nara Agriculture and Food International College (pictured) is working with local farmers and chefs to improve the prefecture’s food culture

Nara was chosen because it was the ancient capital of Japan and first home of the emperor.

Yoshiaki Tanaka, assistant director of MICE promotion in the Tourism Promotion Division of the Nara Prefectural Government, told TTGmice: “Nara was the origin of Japanese cuisine and it was from here that it spread across Japan.”

Tanaka says attracting the forum is part of a broad push to promote gastronomy tourism. Repeated surveys by the Japan National Tourism Organization show that Japanese cuisine is a key draw for travellers to the country.

He and his team are encouraging hotels and restaurants to develop their F&B offerings and focus on ingredients sourced in Nara Prefecture. Work is also underway with Nara Agriculture and Food International College, including providing support for farmers and chefs to work together to improve the area’s food culture.

These steps are designed to boost Nara Prefecture’s attractiveness for culinary-related international events as well as business events in general.

On April 1, the prefecture’s new MICE Promotion Office and Nara Prefectural Convention Center will open. Located between Nara Park and Heijo Palace, just 90 minutes by bus from Kansai International Airport, the centre can host 2,000 delegates. It has a 2,100m2 convention hall, 14 conference rooms as well as indoor and outdoor multi-purpose spaces.

Alongside efforts to attract large international conventions, particularly those related to food, Nara will also work this year to promote its attractions and excursions.

“We will promote activities and experiences that can be enjoyed only in Nara,” said Tanaka.

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