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Creating an Environment Where Foreign Visitors Can Travel Without Anxiety in Japan

-Formulation of Glossaries and Guidelines for Creating Manuals to Assist Foreign Tourists in an Emergency-

by Daisuke Takagi

1. Glossaries for managing foreign tourists in an emergency

(1) Background

Foreign tourists visiting Japan are often unaware of disaster responses in Japan because they may not face the same types of disasters in their countries. Therefore, even when disaster terms and evacuation procedures used in Japan are translated as they are, there is a problem that foreign tourists may misunderstand the "actions to be taken in the event of a disaster." The Japan Tourism Agency has been translating into multiple languages the sentences explaining necessary actions for foreign tourists to take in the event of a disaster, but these are not "easy-to-understand expressions" for foreign tourists who may lack prior knowledge of disaster responses. For example, there may be alerts and evacuation orders based on geographical knowledge and warning information that pertain to them, but even if they are told, if foreign travelers are unable to comprehend them, they cannot understand how to act. Against this background, the agency created a "Glossary of Terms in Communicating Expressions" aimed at translating emergency information into easy-to-understand expressions so that foreign tourists can understand the actions to be taken in an emergency.

(2) Structure

This glossary is composed of "expressions" and "terms," and include examples and words translated into multiple languages that are expected to be used at each disaster site. The examples are organized with a focus on "actions to be taken in the event of a disaster," which is important for foreign tourists. In translating, the agency considered foreign tourists who do not have knowledge of the disaster itself, and also considered the expressions foreign tourists usually use in their home countries. Regarding the translation of expressions, the agency shortened the previous expressions, reviewed the examples so that foreign tourists can understand the actions to be taken, and added new expressions necessary for dealing with the COVID-19 infection.

2. Guidelines for creating a manual for foreign tourists in an emergency

(1) Background

Many local governments in Japan lack resources, such as budgets and staff, for assisting foreign tourists in the event of a disaster, and there are issues, such as the lack of multilingual information provision. The Japan Tourism Agency has created guidelines for local governments to describe disaster responses to foreign tourists in their regional disaster prevention plans. However, some local governments do not prepare foreign tourists in advance of a disaster, and many local governments do not have a designated department to do so. Many tourism-related businesses do not have disaster response manuals for foreign tourists, and assisting foreign tourists in an emergency has become an issue. Therefore, with the aim of demonstrating more specific action policies for local government agencies and businesses that deal with foreign tourists in emergencies, the agency has created a guideline that can be used as a reference when creating and revising the "Manual for Foreign Tourists in an Emergency".

(2) Structure

This guideline is composed “for administrative / related organizations," which includes local governments and tourism-related organizations (Destination Management/Marketing Organizations (DMOs), tourism associations, hotel associations, etc.), and "for businesses," such as accommodation / tourism facilities, transportation companies, retail shops, etc. Since the roles of local governments and DMOs differ in each region, and systems vary depending on the local government, this guideline should be referred to and used to the extent that it can be implemented according to the actual conditions of each region. The contents to be included in the preparation of the manual for foreign tourists in an emergency are organized into four phases ((a) disaster mitigation, (b) preparation for crisis, (c) response to crisis, and (d) recovery from crisis). In addition, as a reference material for this guideline, a template for information transmission that can be used immediately in the field is attached.

Examples of contents to be included in the manual:

(a) Disaster Mitigation

  • Calculation of the number of foreign tourists (preliminary confirmation of the number of visitors by country, language, religion, etc.)

  • Determination of the status of disaster prevention facilities for foreign tourists (assessing the status of having multiple languages available at evacuation centers, etc.)

(b) Crisis Preparedness

  • Examination of attitudes toward foreign tourists in the event of a disaster (considering differences in the reactions of foreign tourists)

  • Collection and preparation to provide information (Providing understanding of the multilingual information site of JNTO and each transportation system)

  • Provision for multilingual support and evacuation guidance for foreign tourists (evacuation guidance in collaboration with the resident foreign community, etc.)

  • Consideration and preparation for movement and return support for foreign travelers (confirmation of routes to international airports, securing means of transportation)

(c) Crisis Response

  • Creation of a list of foreign tourists evacuating to the area (sharing information with embassies and consulates in each country)

(d) Crisis Recovery

  • Dissemination of information on the reconstruction situation and foster a mindset for foreign tourists to return to Japan (disseminate information utilizing the foreign resident community, implement foreign monitor tours, etc.)

Lastly, in the field of tourism crisis management, Dr. Sunkyung Choi of JTTRI (Japan Transport and Tourism Research Institute), has conducted detailed research and analysis, including the evacuation behavior tendencies of foreign tourists during a large-scale earthquake. The research suggests the clear division of roles and cooperation between stakeholders, such as Japanese government, local governments, DMOs, and transportation providers. It also suggests that information providers should prepare materials with the foreigners’ knowledge level in mind, customize content to be foreign country-specific, without simply translating information from Japanese into foreign languages, and diversify information resources for wide information distribution considering that the sources foreigners use have varying degrees of reliability.

Additionally, at the conclusion of the research she highlighted the importance of centralized information management, the need for a comprehensive approach to simultaneously consider evacuation plans and information provision for foreign tourists, and the development for “Tourism Disaster Information Management.” (If you want to learn more, please refer to “The 46th JTTRI Symposium on Research: Winter 2019” - )

May 2021

Feature Article

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