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Regional Business Conference (RBC) in Hokkaido

June 2019

From June 3 to 7, JETRO jointly held a Regional Business Conference (RBC) in Hokkaido with the prefectural government and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). With the attendance of 20 companies from Hong Kong interested in doing business in the prefecture, the advantages of Hokkaido, such as its abundant tourism resources, and the benefits of doing business locally were publicized by Governor Naomichi Suzuki and the heads of individual municipalities in Hokkaido.

Promotion of the allures of Hokkaido at the welcome reception

An RBC is a program in which METI and JETRO work together with local authorities to invite overseas companies and conduct direct promotion by the governor and other leading figures and matching with local companies. Hokkaido has repeatedly reached out to business people in Hong Kong to invest into the prefecture through efforts such a visit to Hong Kong by then Governor Harumi Takahashi in January 2018 and holding an investment consultation seminar in the city the following October. As a result of these efforts, 28 business people attended this RBC from 20 companies involved in management of facilities related to tourism among affiliate companies of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC), Hong Kong's largest economic association with approximately 4,000 members.

At the welcome reception on the evening of June 3, Governor Suzuki delivered an impassioned message to the Hong Kong companies: "Currently, 200,000 people come to Hokkaido from Hong Kong every year. In addition to being an important export destination for Hokkaido, Hong Kong is an invaluable partner in terms of investment, as can be seen in the example of Niseko, a town enjoying an economic boom with investment from Hong Kong. I hope for all of you to see our potential in various fields." Tsuyoshi Makino; Director-General of the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry; stated that his bureau would energize the tourism industry with the Hokkaido Government through the promotion of adventure tourism* and expressed his hope that attendees would consider investment into the industry through the program. Following that, a representative of the Hong Kong companies offered the following response: "We are excited to learn what business and investment opportunities await in Hokkaido. In this regard, we are eager to deepen our understanding of the region’s nature and food."

At the reception venue, Muroran City, Esashi Town and Kamoenai Village, municipalities in Hokkaido with strong interest in drawing investment from overseas, set up introduction corners where the mayor of each conducted direct promotion.

* Adventure tourism: A type of tourism consisting of at least two of the following elements: "activity," "nature" and "cross-cultural experience"

Direct promotion by Govenor Suzuki

Introduction corners by municipalities

Promoting Eastern Hokkaido’s potential

The main target region of this RBC was Eastern Hokkaido, an area with strong potential for drawing foreign tourists. The prefecture is trying to establish Eastern Hokkaido as a hub of adventure tourism and draw inbound (overseas) tourists which concentrate in Central Hokkaido.

On the next day, the Hokkaido Investment Promotion Seminar was convened in Sapporo. In his opening remarks, Vice Governor Shunsuke Tsuchiya stressed the importance of Hong Kong as an economic partner, touching on the steady increase of tourists from Hong Kong. Following him, Hidechika Koizumi, Director of the Investment Facilitation Division at the Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau of METI, explained efforts the Japanese government has been making to draw overseas companies into Japan, expressing his hope that such investment would vitalize regional economies.

In the following session, presentations were delivered by representatives from the Hokkaido Government; the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry; and JETRO Hokkaido, about the allures and investment potential of the prefecture. Hirokazu Tanabe, Executive Director of the Office of International Business at the Department of Economic Affairs of the Hokkaido Government, pointed out that while the region already enjoys a mature relationship with Hong Kong, investment exchange continues to grow in importance and illustrated the high investment potential of Hokkaido, in particular that of the eastern area in terms of outdoor resorts.

Hokkaido Investment Promotion Seminar

In addition, Hideki Asano, General Affairs and Administration Manager at BLUE WAVES Group (headquartered in Singapore), introduced its outdoor facility opened in Akaigawa Village as an example of investment into adventure tourism in the prefecture. The facility has been attracting tourists while increasing the activities that can be experienced every year. He also announced plans to open another activity cottages incorporating an Ainu style in Niseko at the end of 2019.

During the question-and-answer session, requests were made by participants for more information on Eastern Hokkaido as it was the first time to learn about the area’s advantages. Specific questions, such as about incentives for investment and salary levels when hiring employees in the prefecture, were also asked one after another, indicating great interest in Hokkaido among the Hong Kong companies.

Visiting candidate areas

After the seminar, participant companies headed to Eastern Hokkaido and visited investment candidate areas including Teshikaga Town and the cities of Furano and Ashibetsu. These areas were highly praised by participants, with such comments as, "I am deeply intrigued. There is no doubt that business opportunities lie here," and "The eastern area is truly a niche and a fine tourism market."

Hokkaido will hold another similar event geared toward overseas companies capable of contributing to adventure tourism from a “soft” perspective, such as outdoor product makers and tour operators.

* This event was implemented as a consignment project by METI.

Tour of investment candidate areas

Outline of RBC Program in Hokkaido

Date and time Monday, June 3 to Friday, 7, 2019
Venue Hokkaido
Organizers JETRO, Hokkaido Government, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
Invitees 20 companies from Hong Kong
Program Monday, June 3: Welcome reception
Tuesday, June 4: Hokkaido Investment Promotion Seminar, tour of investment candidate areas in Kushiro City
Wednesday, June 5: Tour of investment candidate areas in Teshikaga Town
Thursday, June 6: Tour of a food processing facility in Furano City
Friday, June 7: Tour of investment candidate areas in Ashibetsu City