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Kyoto sightseeing livestream for Chinese viewers becomes controversial; sparks ire in locals

With coronavirus still a threat around the world, tourism in Japan is at an all-time low. One of the hardest hit cities is Kyoto, which relies heavily on the industry for the economic prosperity of both the city and its residents. With fewer foreign tourists than ever, the streets of Kyoto have become empty and many businesses have suffered, so the city has attempted a number of promotions to try to preemptively reignite its tourism industry.

One of those campaigns is a collaboration between JR West and Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, which held a virtual tourism event for Chinese viewers in the form of a live-streamed tour of Arashiyama, one of Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing spots. The video featured Japanese resident and Chinese native Tokyo Archie, an influencer with over one million Chinese followers who posts content on sightseeing spots and eateries in Japan. It was live-streamed on Alibaba’s video service, Taobao Live, on Nov 9.

▼ Nearby Arashiyama’s Nonomiya Shrine

Photo: PAKUTASO

The virtual tour, which lasted two hours, started with an introduction of the Sagano Scenic Railway, then proceeded to visit several sightseeing spots around Arashiyama, and even included a ride in a rickshaw. At one point over 100,000 viewers tuned into the livestream, likely making it a very successful project.

The idea was to instill interest in Kyoto, to inspire travelers to visit again once travel restrictions have been lifted. According to an Alibaba representative, Kyoto was selected because Japan always ranks top among desirable travel destinations for Chinese travelers, who do, in fact, make up much of Japan’s tourist numbers–and who are the biggest spenders.

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