In an attempt to entice foreign tourists, local governments are paying large sums to place links on their websites to the online English version of the Michelin Guide.
Although Nihon Michelin Tire Co. charges at least 10 million yen ($84,000) for the links, the prefectural and city governments say the connections to the globally known online gourmet guides are worth it.
When the Michelin Guide for restaurants and hotels in Fukuoka and Saga prefectures was published in July 2014, the two prefectural governments and Fukuoka city each paid 10 million yen to create an online English version of the guide and place links on their tourism information pages for a two-year period.
The English websites of the Crossroad Fukuoka tourism information site, run by Fukuoka Prefecture, and Fukuoka city’s Yokanabi tourist information website feature an eye-catching red banner that jumps to the Michelin page.
“The link offers a chance for us to send out tourism information directly to foreigners, and we judged that it is worth the cost,” an official in the city’s promotion division said.
However, Shinichi Shimizu, a lecturer at Rikkyo University’s College of Tourism, said that the links to Michelin Guide alone may not be enough to actually bring in tourists.
“While restaurant and hotel information can attract interest from potential visitors, it will not be a decisive factor for them to choose destinations,” Shimizu said. “Local governments need to provide information on how tourists can truly feel the history and culture of the areas and interact with local people because that is the kind of information potential visitors want.”
Michelin’s online English gourmet and accommodation guides dedicated to various regions in Japan started with Hokkaido in 2012.
For the guide for Hiroshima Prefecture that opened in 2013, the prefecture and Hiroshima city paid 6 million yen each to Michelin’s Japanese subsidiary to place links on their websites.
The cities of Kure and Hatsukaichi in the prefecture also paid commissions, while Hiroshima Electric Railway Co., which operates trams in Hiroshima and Hatsukaichi, paid 14 million yen.
“The number of foreign tourists to our city is rising,” said an official in charge of tourism promotion for Kure city. “We believe the links partly played a role.”
An official in Saga Prefecture said the prefectural government plans to conduct an access analysis in March to determine if the links to the Michelin Guide are helping foreigners find the tourism information they want in the prefecture.
The popular Michelin Guide English online restaurant information sites for Tokyo and the Kansai region are operated by Gurunavi Inc., which pays content fees to Michelin.