Kyoto initiates ’empty tourism’ campaign amid coronavirus outbreak

Published on : Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Japanese city Kyoto is one of the most crowded tourist destinations packed with visitors from all over the world.


But as the coronavirus outbreak keeps visitors away from the historic streets of Japan’s former capital, a group of shopkeepers has launched an “empty tourism” campaign to lure them back.


Merchants from five shopping streets in Kyoto’s Arashiyama neighbourhood — a popular tourist district on the western outskirts of the city that’s filled with temples and shrines — have devised an advertising campaign dubbed “suitemasu Arashiyama,” which translates to “empty Arashiyama” or “there are few people around in Arashiyama.”


The posters created for the campaign showcase how any would-be travellers could have the district’s most-visited spots all to themselves.


It does so by showing images of four popular tourist sites in Arashiyama with a tongue-in-cheek message for each one.


One poster shows a monkey with the caption: “It’s been a while since there were more monkeys than humans.” Underneath, there’s a photo of Togetsukyo Bridge — normally crowded with Instagrammers — with no tourists about.


Another depicts Arayshiyama’s beautiful bamboo grove accompanied with several hashtags, including “#nopeople” and “#nowisthetime.”


Arashiyama has enjoyed many busy traveller-filled winters over the past few years.


However, due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, locals report that the neighbourhood has had fewer visitors so far in 2020 than in 2019.


As a consequence, the district’s tourism website states that shopkeepers are at the ready to welcome visitors “with even more hospitality than usual.”


“Recently our region sustained a lot of disasters, like typhoons, flood [and] the coronavirus. We have to keep our chins up,” Shuichi Kato, a community spokesman dedicated to promoting tourism in Arashiyama, said.


Kyoto, which has 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, usually receives thousands of foreign tourists daily.


Often, tourism headlines from Kyoto have focused on bad behaviour — for example, the historic Gion neighbourhood cracked down on photography last year in response to ongoing issues with tourists chasing geishas and trying to take pictures of them without permission


But this year, amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s popular destinations have seen a slump in tourist numbers.

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