Hiroshima City government has launched a new initiative to assist visitors. Branded as “Travelpal”, the idea is that by providing machi-kado-kanko-an-nai-sho or “street corner tourist information spots” around the city, visitors will be able to pick up information about local attractions and events, and ask for help more easily. Other than being staffed by people to give directions etc and displaying pamphlets, places will also offer areas to chill out, use of toilets and internet access.
The initiative was launched on Thursday September 13, and according to the city website it kicked off with 119 locations which can be identified by the Travelpal question mark sticker shown on the right.
103 of these are post offices however, and, although the aim is increase the number of locations to 140 by year end, as of now, only 8 eateries, 4 stores and 3 hotels have currently signed up to offer the service.
Places that take part commit to provide the service a minimum of 5 days a week for a minimum of 5 hours a day. Although the sticker lists toilets, telephone and fax, photocopying, rest area, internet and WiFi access, participating places are not required to provide all the services. Also, although the stickers are in English as well as Japanese, there are no details about ability to field questions in foreign languages.
This sounds like a promising initiative, especially if the number of locations expands to include more shops, cafes and restaurants. Whether they become more than dropping off (and piling up) points for the hundreds of leaflets and pamphlets that the tourist industry produces will depend largely on the enthusiasm with which the staff charged with helping out visitors approach the task.
Next time you see a Travelpal sticker when you are walking around town, why not pop in and test it out? If you do, please let us know how you get on!
If your business is interested in participating you can find details about how to apply here [ja].