Travel to Japan has skyrocketed over the past several years, with more than 30 million visitors flocking to cities like Toyko and Kyoto in 2018 alone. Tourism has taken a major hit since the coronavirus outbreak, however, prompting enterprising shop owners in Kyoto to spin the situation in an attempt to reignite international interest in the city.
Creating a marketing campaign called suitemasu Arashiyama, or “empty Arashiyama,” vendors in Kyoto’s Arashiyama neighborhood have begun advertising the city’s emptiness as an opportunity for travelers to fulfill the universal dream of visiting a destination as popular as Japan without running into hordes of other tourists.
Though Kyoto residents have grown accustomed to the city’s 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites being perpetually crowded, posters created for the campaign depict landmarks like Togetsukyo Bridge and Kyoto’s bamboo forests completely devoid of visitors. “It’s been a while since there were more monkeys than people,” a poster of a monkey is captioned.
Though overtourism in Japan was, until recently, a concern, this sudden, striking dip in tourism is also impacting the country and its citizens. It remains to be seen what lasting consequences the coronavirus outbreak will have on tourism in Japan or elsewhere, but it’s clear that business owners in Kyoto are already concerned.