This practice of Universal tourism is something that we should really learn from the nation of Japan to make more accessible travel options for all in every country without the risk of discrimination due to age and disabilities,

In a country like Japan, known as a country with a “greying” population, some may think that this may pose a problem for the country’s sector of tourism. With the average life expectancy for the average Japanese person reaching age 85 and the fertility rate rapidly decreasing daily, there have to be some drastic measures to preserve the tourism sector and interest for international travelers and vacation makers to come to Japan that keep the aging population in the loop. This island nation’s healthy diet, high in carbohydrates and essentials to a balanced diet like fresh fish keeping them going strong coupled with their culture’s traditions of reverence towards their elders, the life expectancy doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon. There are various programs and activities to support the market now that are slowly growing, especially when Japan’s tourism sector was also met with the natural disaster of the Great Earthquake.

After the Great Earthquake in 2011, the government had set a target of hitting at least 10 million visitors in 2010, which since the end of December has now hit 31 million inbound visitors. The ease of access to the tourist visa to visit Japan has also definitely helped to boost the inbound travelers within the country since they can acquire their visas quicker with less runaround. This leaves more time for the traveler to plan their awesome itinerary for their Japan trip with less of the stress!

IMG: Associação Japonesa de Santos. Matheus Misumoto. Flickr. Creative Commons.

The government has now put together the concept of “green tourism”, which helps to provide support for the individuals living more towards the rural areas, offering them more transportation and tour options that eventually direct the tourists towards these usually untapped areas while they can stay in traditional farmhouses and farm inns. A team of researchers was put together in Japan to look at the impact that this project has had on the locals that would potentially benefit from a concept like this. The project was held in a peninsula town know as Noto in the West that was once a huge hub for timber production.

Throughout their countryside are many farmhouses and places that could be of interest for a weekend get away from the loud noises of the city bringing in both national as well as international visitors. This program has greatly improved the quality of living within these communities as found from a study in the town of Noto, where the average inn owner was around 70 years of age. “We applied a sustainable livelihoods approach to consider physical, natural, human, financial, and social capital all as factors for comprehensively assessing the effects of tourism. We sought to accurately grasp tourism’s impact on the farm inn households, rather than just giving a generalized portrait of the community and environment.” , said the co-author of the research done, Proferssor Nisikawa Usio.
In addition to increasing the different types of inbound travel, many companies have opened up in recent years to establish an increase of tourism for the Japanese elderly. A Tokyo-based company known as SPI offers a great service of universal tourism, which makes tourism accessible to all travelers, no matter the disability or age within the country. The company SPI trains what they like to call “travel helpers” – the travel helper is in short a tour guide with the know-how in nursing as well as the standard travel information that would be interesting to any tourist. These tours have helped incredibly for the elderly in Japan to get to see the sights that they love as well as explore new horizons especially as the travel helpers are trained to handle any type of emergency health-related incident which takes away the worry from an elder that is traveling. The SPI company that has been open since 1995 has launched over more than 450 types of tours for their clientele while constantly growing! With the culture of elder individuals thinking that they are unable to travel because of the fact that they need assistance and not wanting to seem like a burden to relatives or family friends, this travel service is extremely welcome and much needed.

IMG: Kyoto_3. hans-johnson. Flickr. Creative Commons.

According to the National Institute of Population and Social Reseach in Japan, the number of Japanese people that are of the age 65 and older is expected to reach over 37 million in 2030, which will account for over 30 percent of the nations total population in 2036 if the estimation is correct. With a country like this, the way to move forward definitely has to be in alignment with the practices of universal tourism. This practice of Universal tourism is something that we should really learn from the nation of Japan to make more accessible travel options for all in every country without the risk of discrimination due to age and disabilities, training all staff within the tourism sector to become educated and learn how to be active members of society with respect and consciousness for all.


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