The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

New York City and Tokyo may be quite different, but they also have a lot in common. They are two of the most powerful cities in the world, ranking second and third in the Mori Memorial Foundation’s *Global Power City Index 2017* (GPCI), which is topped by London. Both have strong economies, are continuously developing their infrastructure to support visitors, and offer some of the world’s best food and cultural experiences.

To capitalize on these shared traits, the two powerhouses have decided to further develop their sister city relationship—part of Japan’s effort to form stronger promotional alliances abroad as inbound tourism continues to rise.

On November 10, NYC & Company—the official marketing, tourism, and partnership organization of New York City—and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) formalized an agreement to promote seasonal tourism in both cities through marketing and advertising assets. This is the first partnership of its kind that Tokyo has formed, and there is scope for the ties to further develop business opportunities in both cities.

Another potential boost for Tokyo closely followed with the signing on December 4 of a memorandum of understanding between the city and London by governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike and the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Charles Bowman. The intent is to deepen the relationship between the two cities in the financial services sector. This is another indication that Tokyo is looking to develop its ties with leading global centers in different industries. London ranks first in the GPCI.

The relationship between Tokyo and New York dates back to 1960, when they became sister cities. Founded by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, the non-profit Sister Cities International organization brings together locales to share and strengthen commercial and cultural ties, and foster friendship that encourages stronger trade and tourism. The new Tokyo–NYC agreement will further strengthen a bond that has existed between the two global centers for more than half a century.

A TMG spokesperson talked to *The ACCJ Journal* about this developing relationship. “In recent years, the governor of Tokyo has visited New York City to exchange opinions regarding the local government’s terrorism countermeasures and the environmental field. At the same time, we are strengthening friendship and cooperation, for instance by enabling city employees to study policies together.”

Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC & Company, believes the two cities complement one another. “We have been sister cities for a long time, and both cities are well known as attractive destinations that many travelers want to visit at least once in a lifetime. We believe that both cities are well matched as attractive destinations with the same goal of increasing their numbers of visitors.”

In a press release, Dixon detailed the benefits of the NYC–Tokyo partnership, and the strong reputations the two cities share as global capitals of innovation, design, cuisine, and culture. Aligning efforts to promote both as tourist destinations could not have come at a better time, as each was already looking to boost awareness on the global stage.

Dixon also told *The ACCJ Journal*: “We hope that this partnership with Tokyo will inspire travel between the two cities, driving visitation to New York City from this ever-important source market.”

The head of Tokyo’s Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs, Yuji Fujita, also commented in the press release about the partnership goals. “As Tokyo gears up for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, our goal is to welcome 25 million visitors [per year] to our city by 2020. I am confident that our partnership with New York City, one of the world’s greatest tourism destinations, will be extremely beneficial for the international tourism of both our charming cities.”

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan welcomed 24.04 million international visitors in 2016. And while those from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea comprised the majority, tourists from the United States ranked first among those from outside of Asia.

On the flip side, New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Tokyoites. In fact, Japan is the 11th largest source of inbound tourists to the city. Some 325,000 visitors arrived from Japan in 2016, and the total for 2017 is expected to reach 331,000. “As the largest city in the United States, New York is full of excitement. Offering commerce, culture, fashion, entertainment, sports, and more, the city never gets boring. These are some of the main attractions for travelers,” a TMG spokesperson said.

Promotional efforts will span an array of inventive ways to show off the cities’ wares. While the Big Apple has a long history of successful marketing as a travel destination, the Big Mikan is perhaps only just realizing its potential. Sparked by upcoming international sporting events, governmental policies are also spurring technological innovation, cultural exchange, and an influx of foreign direct investment.

Marketing efforts in Japan have already begun in earnest. In April 2017, the country’s capital city introduced its “Tokyo Tokyo Old Meets New” campaign, which was launched to highlight a city that embraces both history and innovation. Through a series of videos, the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB) seeks to show contrasting sides of the city, from food and historical sites to performances and cultural experiences.

The TMG spokesperson said: “In Tokyo, you discover something new with each visit. There are so many ways to experience the city, from cutting-edge trend spots and traditional downtown cityscapes to islands rich with nature. Going forward, we think it will be important to find ways to convey both the known and still unknown attractions of Tokyo in a more accessible manner.”

As part of the Tokyo–NYC tourism partnership, efforts in New York to promote Tokyo include advertisements at bus stops and on Link NYC screens in all five boroughs, and promotion on NYC & Company’s official social media channels. On November 11, a visual cue was given to signal the beginning of the partnership as the Empire State Building was lit up blue and white, the colors of the Tokyo Tokyo Old Meets New campaign.

In Tokyo, Japanese clothier “Niko and …” is selling apparel with NYC branding in its Harajuku flagship store. Banner advertisements—1,320 in total—are also being hung in select stations, along with wall posters in Toei Roppongi, Shimbashi, and Hibiya Stations. Advertisements also adorn 63 bus stop waiting areas across Shibuya and Shinjuku and, on November 10, Tokyo Tower was lit up orange, white, and blue—the colors of New York City’s official flag.

The TCVB also plays a part, using their Twitter and Facebook channels to help with promotion.

The TMG spokesperson believes that this partnership will also lead to further long-term opportunities beyond the tourism industry.

“Communicating the attractions of Tokyo and New York to increase the mutual flow of travelers will not only re­­­­vitalize the tourism sector, but also lead to business opportunities. With new technologies, the world will become ever more easy to reach. This might sow seeds for new discoveries and businesses. In the long term, we also believe the partnership can contribute to the sustainable development of each city.”

Dixon echoed the idea that business opportunities will arise. “As part of our city-to-city tourism partnership event [in November], we engaged with key business partners through a VIP trade reception and additional networking sessions. We look forward to continuing to develop these relationships in the months to come.”

Opportunity also seems ripe for travel companies to capitalize on an increase in tourists. One is international travel agency H.I.S. Co., Ltd., which has signed on to participate in the partnership. The company is offering discounted packages for some of Japan’s most popular times for visitors, including cherry blossom season and the many music festivals that pulsate across the summer landscape.

The partnership also ties in with the TMG’s initiative—New Tokyo. New Tomorrow. The Action Plan for 2020—to promote Tokyo as a safe, diverse, and smart city that began in FY2017 and runs through FY2020.

And it seems that the plan is working, with the number of non-Japanese travelers to Tokyo reaching 13 million in 2015, a 10.2 percent increase over the previous year. With technology making travel and destination information more readily available—and with partnerships such as this—the exchange of cultures and understanding can only get better.

Maxine Cheyney is a staff writer at Custom Media for The ACCJ Journal.
Our partnership with New York City, one of the world’s greatest tourism destinations, will be extremely beneficial for the international tourism of both our charming cities.