An English tourism website broke into the Japanese-dominated Japan Tourism Awards this year alongside big-name players.
In its fourth year, the Japan Tourism Awards ceremony took place Sept 20 at Tokyo Big Sight exhibition hall, in conjunction with the largest tourism expo in the world, the Japan Tourism Expo, held Sept 20-24.
This year’s awards received more than 250 applications and are judged by representatives from organizations such as Japan National Tourism Awards, Japan Tourism Association (JTA) and United Nations World Tourism Organization. Winners included national names in Japan media and business such as JTB Corp, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), TBS Vision, Inc, and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. But the grand prize winner was a Destination Marketing Organization called Snow Country Tourism Association that highlights winter tourism destinations in central regions of Japan.
Unprecedented growth in tourism, with a record high of more than 28 million overseas travelers in 2017, has led Japan to focus on the industry for economic growth, especially with the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
GaijinPot Travel won the 2018 Special Award for ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Utilization, alongside two other winners in the category including initiatives from Japan Airlines Co and Keikyu Corporation. According to a statement on the Japanese Japan Tourism Awards website, GaijinPot Travel won because of its initiatives to connect overseas travelers to hyper local regions and sightseeing spots in Japan. That includes remote locations and disaster-affected regions of Japan, as well as LGBTQ tourist destinations which are little-known and often rarely written about for a foreign audience.
GaijinPot, launched in 1999, is a website that caters to foreigners who live, travel or start a career in Japan. GaijinPot Travel launched in 2016. Both are part of the Tokyo-based media company GplusMedia Inc, which has several other online publications including Japan Today newspaper and Savvy Tokyo.
Victoria Vlisides, editor in chief of GaijinPot Travel, accepted the award at the ceremony on Sept 20. She said it is an honor to be recognized, especially with such a high-level of competition.
"Our content is a collaborative effort from writers across Japan finding these hidden gems and letting them shine," she said. "Not only are we thrilled to win such a prestigious award, but we are impressed that Japan Tourism Awards is taking seriously our efforts to represent the LGBTQ community in Japan."
For Vlisides, a native of the U.S., travel is an important — though sometimes underestimated — tool for understanding the world.
"We hope in some small way that our website, and travel itself, can start to bridge many different gaps within Japanese society and especially bring more awareness to the LGBTQ community here."
The expo had more than 1,000 exhibitors from 136 countries and regions, and more than 200,000 visitors.© Japan Today