Okinawa’s local government has made a commitment to its people and to travellers from across the globe to become one of the “safest resort destinations in Japan”, with new initiatives designed to reduce devastation caused by possible future natural disasters.
Following last year’s earthquake and tsunami, local leaders launched the first Tourism Crisis Management Planning Project, a three-step plan to make the group of Islands safer for tourists, enhance the region’s competitive edge and contribute to a positive image for the region’s branding.
Moving into the second phase of the three year plan this year, Tourism Marketing chief executive Masato Takamatsu told guests at the 2nd International Forum on the Integration of Tourism and Emergency Management Aerial in Sydney, that although Okinawa is already “quite safe” for international tourists, leaders have recognised other potential risks that could impact one of the region’s major employment and economic contributors, tourism.
According to research results gathered during the initial phase, up to 50 percent of local hotels do not have crisis management planned for visitors and language barrier was one of the biggest issues when communicating crisis information to the masses.
Countering concerns, the government has since added an English and Japanese handbook with contents including what steps should be taken in the event of a natural disaster, to every hotel room across the Okinawa.
Coloured signage indicating the level of flooding has also been added across the region and in hotel emergency exits as well as the launch of a new tourism crisis information delivery system that will notify tourists of an emergency situation via a text message.
According to Mr Takamatsu, visitors register their phone number or download the App to their smartphone and once they are registered they are added to an emergency system that will send out an alert prior to devastation hitting.
Translated into five languages including Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Korean, the device can send an emergency message within a second to encourage immediate response.
Mr Takamatsu explained that during the February 2011 tsunami all communication went down across Japan because of an influx of people trying to contact and locate loved ones.
He said it was “important” when designing the App that it would be able to let people know about the emergency prior to it occurring.
“It also provides information to the service people on site like on the beach or hoteliers so they can immediately take action to safely evacuate the visitors,” he said.
Hoping to add a call centre feature to the App in due time, Mr Takamatsu said the Group was focused on raising awareness of the product and has set up stickers on the driver’s side of rented cars and started handing out flyers to local travellers.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J