Kazuko Toda, Director, Business Events Team, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, explains the strategy of Tokyo as an association destination and how the 2020 Olympics will leave a lasting legacy for meetings in the Japanese capital.
HQ: Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics. How will this benefit the meetings industry?
Kazuko Toda: The fact that Tokyo will be hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will benefit us in two ways - branding and infrastructure.
With the selection of Tokyo as the Olympic/Paralympic host, we feel that Tokyo’s name has been out in the international media more often and there is more interest in the destination from clients, local and international. It was a great way to get our name out there and it reached our target clients as well. Tokyo, or Japan as a country with its unique culture and attraction, has been in the minds of so many people. We hear from many clients that they “would personally love to visit Tokyo one day.” By being selected as the Olympics/Paralympics host, I think clients are actually stepping ahead and considering Tokyo as their “meetings destination” in a more serious way.
We definitely feel that the success of the Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Games will be a great way to enhance our branding. I already have a sense that we are getting more inquiries from clients compared to a few years ago, wishing to hold their meetings before the Games.
Ever since the selection, the year 2020 has become a “goal” for everyone, including the suppliers in the meetings industry. It made it clear to everyone that many things had to be improved further before 2020, and specific actions are already taking place. Hotels like Hotel Okura Tokyo and the Tokyo Prince Hotel are undergoing renovation to cater to international standards. The number of international flights is increasing both at the Haneda and Narita airports. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government in collaboration with Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau has started a program for students to develop a volunteer program for the 2020 Games. New roads are being built to better the flow of traffic within the city. All these improvements in the infrastructure will make Tokyo a more attractive and comfortable destination for international meetings.
HQ: What are Tokyo’s added values for association meetings and planners?
Kazuko Toda: There is a misconception that everything in Tokyo is expensive. We say that there’s value for money. A client who hosted an international meeting in October 2014 commented that in Tokyo you will get more than what you pay for. The quality and level of service, as well as the expertise and know-how of every supplier involved, lead to the success of any meeting. The client was happily surprised that there was not one serious complaint from any delegate during the Tokyo meeting, due to the smoothness of the organisation.
Safety for the delegates are also top priority issues that meeting planners pay attention to these days. The fact that Tokyo has been selected as the #1 safest city in the Safe Cities Index is highly recognised by meeting planners.
In addition, Tokyo has been selected the most liveable city in the 2015 Quality of Live Survey by Monocle. The Survey includes criteria such as safety, international connectivity, public transport, tolerance and environmental issues, but for 2015, they added 22 new metrics, like housing and the cost of living, from the price of a three-bedroom house to the cost of a coffee, a glass of wine and a decent lunch. Furthermore, access to nature, urban design, business conditions, pro-active policy development and medical care have also been more emphasized.
HQ: Can you describe the ‘Tokyo experience’ that association delegates might experience?
Kazuko Toda: Although Tokyo is known to be a metropolis and delegates might have the impression of Tokyo as being a city with only tall concrete buildings, it is actually a city with a unique mix of tradition and innovation. I am sure that meeting delegates expect to fully experience and enjoy something different and memorable to take home and talk about. So, for association meetings coming to Tokyo for the first time, we propose a themed reception featuring the authentic Japanese culture. Delegates will be welcomed by ladies in kimonos, listen to the music of the koto (Japanese harp) or taiko (Japanese drums) as they enjoy Edomae (Tokyo style) sushis and tempura, the must-eat dishes in the city. Ame-zaiku, or traditional candy sculpting, will impress the guests and become fine souvenirs to take home.
HQ: If you had to pick one outstanding venue and one social activity you can do in Tokyo only, what would they be?
Kazuko Toda: The MIRAIKAN, or the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, is a museum where visitors can experience advanced science technology through exhibits and hands-on experiences. The Museum covers a wide variety of themes from technology used in the outer space to human cells research to robotics. The world’s first large 3D virtual Earth-shape display called the Geo-Cosmos is the symbol of the Museum, and is placed over the space available for receptions and events. For international scientific meetings, it stages a unique and special atmosphere.
A special must-do activity in Tokyo is making your own sushi. Sushi, a specialty now so well-known around the world, used to be a fast food 400 years ago, when Tokyo was still called “Edo.” The guests will learn all about sushi-making, as well as the history of Edo-style sushi and the various kinds of fish used.
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