Checking Out

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In last month’s issue, I talked about visiting kindred organizations so that we can launch photography workshops that act like sightseeing activities in Yokohama. To give a simple recap, Yokohama is a sightseeing city and also the birthplace of photography in Japan. That being the case, why not run photography workshops as a part of city tourism? And so my mission begins.

Arts Commission Yokohama (ACY) is responsible for supporting the cultural arts in Yokohama. I have an old friend there by the name of Sugisaki, a sort of comrade in arms with whom I’ve struggled through a great many battles. He’s just as cool as he looks and is not afraid to speak his mind about things that seem uninteresting or unlikely, even to friends. Maybe that’s why he’s earned so much trust from artists. He must seem rather gruff to artists with half-baked work. I thought an opinion from him would be good.

“I think it will work,” he said. “People are saying that a new way of looking at tourism is not the check-in side but the check-out side.”

It was a quick professional opinion that made me feel good. In other words, on the check-in side, hotel booking and airline tickets are basically the business of profit and the goal is to increase the rate of check-ins. It’s a model where you present tour options and charming lodging facilities and then, relying on data to tweak it, try to increase your profits. The check-out side is about enjoying interaction with people who already checked-in, as well as information and the richness of experience. The value there is mostly realized after checkout; the lodgings are a kind of gateway for enjoying the city. It’s not just the hotel, but the entire town that is trying to encourage repeat travel. If I were to try to describe this another way by explaining what is good about it, in a phrase it would be, “Everyone has fun.” Those enjoyable experiences translate into money which the town is the beneficiary of. Sugisaki’s acquaintance started a hotel in Kanazawa where this is the focus. I then asked if there was anything in Yokohama that could fulfill such a role.

He replied, “There’s a new place in Nogeyama called Futareno that’s probably pretty good. It’s close to The Darkroom and the kind of guests that stay there would probably be receptive to your workshop tourism pitch. I think it’d be a good idea to partner up with Bukatsudo, too.”

These were concrete suggestions he offered, to which he added, “Start with the idea of having tourists enjoy the same thing that locals enjoy. That, and tourism which gives a new perspective to art will ultimately provide opportunities to more casually encounter art than any visit to a museum, I believe.”

Since we’re professional photographers, we excel at that genre, but we are conversely sometimes unfamiliar with other worlds. His bird’s-eye view of what we’re trying to accomplish was deeply helpful. The tone of his voice and demeanor revealed, too, that he probably found the topic interesting. He then gave me a few more names of some people I should meet and I left ACY. Stay tuned for more mission updates.

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