Tokyo 2020: an opportunity for Japan to "tell its story"

June 5, 2014


The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are an opportunity for Japan to "tell its story", Paul Gauger, Global Head of International Media & Destination PR at VisitBritain, said at a BCCJ business breakfast "Branding Japan: the Olympic Opportunity", today.

Paul, who led the UK's tourism and media strategy for London 2012, gave a talk to 35 guests at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, before taking 30 minutes of lively questions from the floor.

He explained it was important not only to focus on attracting tourists to the host city during the duration of the Games, but also on building a long-term legacy for the nation as a whole. "Everybody knows Tokyo, or thinks they do, but maybe they don't know about other great places in Japan. The big thing is storytelling - telling the stories that the country wants to tell. It's an opportunity to shift the story."

Much of the tourism and media marketing budget for the 2012 Games had been allocated to attracting tourists after the event. "We said, 'You've seen the Games, now come and see the rest of the country for yourself. Come and see the country houses, castles and quintessential British pubs'."

In the year of London 2012, the UK had 1% increase of visitors despite the fact tourism can often be offset when holidaymakers choose to avoid Olympic cities if they are not interested in the Games. In 2013 the UK welcomed 33m visitors, who spent GBP21bn in total. The visitor numbers were the highest ever enjoyed by the country.

Crucially, London 2012 had an army of volunteers guiding spectators around venues and providing information across the city. Paul said that tourists' interactions with marshalls, taxi drivers and volunteers played a key part in how they perceived the host nation.

"After the Games, the UK rose to become one of the top 10 "most welcoming" nations in the world," he said, "we would suggest that Tokyo brings in a solid volunteer programme, involving as many multi-lingual guides and information counters as possible".

Paul also stressed the importance of businesses keeping prices competitive during the Games, explaining that venues who hiked prices dramatically had been left with empty rooms and seats until they brought in discounted deals at the last minute.

He added, "Businesses - particularly those in the hospitality industry - also need to think about operating under different rules of engagement. If everyone is watching the Games, live or at home, until late and heading out for dinner afterwards, it's not a good idea for restaurants to close at 11pm as usual. Also, London's theatres did attract visitors in 2012 but they were essentially competing with the greatest show on earth."

Companies in the host nation were advised to have a strong social media plan across as many platforms as possible, and to make sure that non-accredited press and media were also well taken care of - for example, by guaranteeing access to wifi.

Finally, Paul said that communication with Japanese residents about the effect of the Games on transport networks or crowd-levels should be handled carefully, to avoid detering domestic tourists, and to stop Tokyoites from "escaping". "While the East End of London was doing well the West End and areas such as Covent Garden were not as busy as usual," he said.

What people are saying

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For a selection of photos from the event please visit our Flickr site.

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The next BCCJ Olympic event, Agents of change: the Olympic example, will see Sue Hunt, Director of Strategic Programmes at London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), join other senior leaders for a panel discussion on June 17. Event details