The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association Communications Director LoAnn Halden traveled around Japan to participate in workshops designed to educate Japanese tourism businesses on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market.
More than 100 tourism professionals and media attended three IGLTA-branded workshops held over the course of the week. The 25 September seminar, “Understanding the LGBT Market,” was conducted at the invitation of the Japan Association of Travel Agents as part of the JATA Tourism Expo 2015 at Tokyo Big Sight. It was the first time LGBT programming was included in the annual trade fair, and it was the highest-attended seminar of the day.
According to JATA, the number of foreign travelers to Japan is increasing 30-40 percent each year, and will hit 19 million in 2015. “Given this situation, JATA recognizes the LGBT potential for the Japanese inbound market,” the association said in an official statement.
Two more workshops with networking receptions followed, 29 September in Tokyo and 30 September in Kyoto. IGLTA volunteer ambassadors based in Japan, Shiho Ikeuchi of the Hotel Granvia Kyoto and Shintaro Koizumi of Out Asia Travel, organized these events to educate tourism professionals on the LGBT market and the association. The local organizations Equal Marriage Alliance and Nijiiro Diversity also lent their support.
Halden, Ikeuchi, and Koizumi concluded IGLTA’s outreach tour on 1 October in the historic city of Nara. Mayor Gen Nakagawa expressed interest in the city becoming the first Japanese destination member of IGLTA and shared his commitment to promoting diversity. The Nara meeting was filmed by NHK for both the evening news and a planned news documentary on the LGBT market.
“Although Japanese culture is conservative, it is welcoming by nature,” Halden said. “We found everyone we met to be genuinely interested in learning more about LGBT issues and how to improve tourism in Japan. They’re asking the right questions. I can see the support for LGBT equality beginning to grow within Japan’s business community. There will be much more engagement between IGLTA and Japan in the future.”