Japan’s tourism players step up English training for staff

With the recovery of inbound tourism well underway, Japan’s tourism sector is providing English training for staff, many of whom have seldom been able to use the language in their workplace since 2020.

Inbound tourism dropped 99 per cent in May 2020 from a year earlier as the government introduced strict border controls that were finally fully lifted in October this year.

Japan’s tourism sector is stepping up English training for staff so they can converse with international visitors

Since then, JR East has been helping staff at its Omiya branch in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, to brush up on their English via training at Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.

As bonsai is the main tourism draw of Omiya – a city home to Omiya Bonsai Village, Bonsai Restaurant Omiya and Fuyoen – staff are learning how to converse with international visitors on the basics of bonsai, in addition to reviewing how they give directions and explain train ticket purchases in English.

At Hilton Tokyo, where staff have been taking part in video call lessons and using other online learning tools since the start of the pandemic, in-person lessons are being reintroduced.

Before Covid, staff enjoyed regular classroom teaching in English, with private lessons available for key members to cover English use on the telephone, in emails and so on, Shannon Fujimaki from learning and development at Hilton Tokyo told TTG Asia.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is also equipping their National Licensed Guide Interpreters with new information on the elements of Japan that are expected to be most popular among travellers post-lockdown.

“With an eye on the post-Covid era, we are implementing a programme to train interpreter guides who can meet the diversifying needs of foreign visitors,” said a government spokesperson.

“Repeat visitors and individual travellers have strong demands for an understanding of Tokyo’s arts, culture, traditional performing arts and industries, as well as for unique regional experiences.”

The new guides will be trained using in-person lectures and simulated tours over 12 days between November 2022 and February 2023.

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