Staggering the Crowd Adds Value

Japan’s tourism pollution, or over-tourism, is no longer a problem that can be ignored. As the numbers of inbound visitors continue to climb its time to start thinking about positive strategies might be the most effective.  Staggering is one method of spreading visitors out upon entrance to attractions. This article discusses how implementing good strategy can enhance the visitor experience while helping attractions and destinations better manage crowds.

DMO’s and government tourist offices in Japan seem to be slow to suggest or advise proactive management policy to control crowds. To be fair, at first glance,  it seems counterintuitive to try to discourage growth in a new industry that shows so much potential to become a significant influence on GDP.

The push for tourism management reform, however,  may come to shove if the most popular destinations follow worldwide trends. In April (2018), we saw as Venice was in the news for attempting to limit access to its floating city over Easter weekend by installing turnstiles. The method to limit visitor numbers was due to an ultimatum made at the end of 2017 that the destination risked losing its UNESCO world heritage status if it couldn’t demonstrate control over numbers.

There are many similarities between Venice and many destinations in Japan, especially those with UNESCO world heritage sites, dwindling populations and increasing numbers of visitors. Locals are feeling pushed out by the crowds, yet the shopkeepers and local DMO’s argue there isn’t a problem to worry about as they feel overly dependent on tourist revenue and pressure to keep numbers growing. Another parallel between many Japanese cities and Venice is tourism booming too fast and too soon due to mass-tourism drop-offs of cruise ships. DMO’s, government officers and local business seem passionate about the argument that more visitors necessitates larger economic gains. Making compromises to welcome cruise ships without first forecasting the costs and inadequacies of existing infrastructure is short-sighted. These floating cities can drop thousands of visitors to a destination in a single swoop. Tour buses create similar problems for destinations inside cities. 

Besides an outright ban, there may be less obvious and less controversial ways to slow down the number of visitors to destinations.

Stagger the masses

Every popular destination experiences overcrowding in some areas at some times of the day. But even at that very popular destination, not all of the streets, shrines or attractions are busy at the same time. If there were some way to stagger too many visitors at one time, visitors would enjoy the experience more, staff would feel less pressure, and deal with fewer complaints, and the cultural and environmental integrity of a destination could be better protected.

For example, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum is in the long process of renovation and a common complaint of visitors is that there are too many people around for them to fully appreciate the excellent exhibits. School group students were particularly mentioned on a few occasions by international visitors I interviewed as being disruptive to their experience. Large groups of students in uniform entering at the same time were noisy and rather disrespectful they felt while they were quietly looking at exhibits inside the museum.

Maintain Maximum Capacity Limits

So, based on this information, I would suggest to the museum that they open earlier and stay open later and only schedule school groups during off-peak times of day when there are fewer guests to disturb. Peak times should also be a time to set limits on maximum carrying capacity. But how many is too many? There are formulas available to calculate the number of people per total space of a facility. But this may be inaccurate as each attraction has varied ability to absorb visitors regardless of overall size. So, I think the best method would be to correlate data between the number of total entrants with the length of stay and quality of the visit.

If we have a look at tourist facilities that successfully manage crowds, there are many great examples at efficiently run amusement parks in Japan like Tokyo Disney Land and Disney Sea.

Fast Pass

Disney’s famous ‘fast pass’ system is a good example of managing crowds.  For example, upon arrival at the Hiroshima peace park, in a similar fashion to a theme park, people would first go to the museum to buy a ticket. At the ticket office, they would have sufficient information to either choose to wait in line where an estimated time to wait is clearly posted, or be given a time frame to return later if they would prefer to enter quickly. The same theory could be applied to temples, shrines, restaurants and any other attraction at a destination.

Enter through the gift shop or museum

Another idea that I’ve seen effectively used at Seattle’s Space Needle and New York’s Empire State Building is to stagger visitors upon entry by winding the entrance through the gift shop or up a few sloping floors of memorabilia. Groups pausing to buy souvenirs, learn about the history of the attraction and take selfies is a great way to stagger entrance without making visitors feel like they are simply waiting in line.

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日本では「観光汚染」(tourism pollution)もしくは「過剰観光」(over-tourism) の実態は無視する状態を超えてきました。インバウンドの来客者数がうなぎ登りするなか、効果的な対策をどう講じるべきか考える時期になりました。人気スポットへの入場制限が訪問者を効率よく少なくする方法の一つです。ここでは人気の観光地や目的地により良い対策を導入することで満足度の高い経験を観光客に与えることをみていきます。
日本国内に人ごみの対策を観光地域づくり(DMO)や行政の観光案内所では積極的取り入れることに抵抗があります。確かにGDPにプラスに働く伸び率が目覚ましいこの産業を制止するような対策は逆効果ともいえます。

しかし世界的な傾向が日本の人気観光地でも見られようになるといやおうなしに改善を求められるようになります。記憶に新しいのが2018年イースターのヴネチアのニューズです。2017年末に訪問者の人数対策を講じなければUNESCOの世界遺産登録が抹消される忠告を受けて、回転式改札口を導入しました。

日本の人気観光地とベネチアには共通点が多く、特に世界遺産を持つ地域での人口減少と観光客の増加が同じです。地元の人が隅にやられている感じがするなか地域のDMOや店の経営者たちは観光から生まれる利益や人数の増加に頼っているからこそ、問題ないと反論します。また豪華客船からの大勢の人による急激、かつ早すぎる観光ブームには追い付かない様子も一緒です。DMOや行政関係者、ローカル・ビジネスまでもがより多くの観光客がより多額の利益に直結しているという立場をとります。しかし事前に既存の基盤の弱点の改善や経費を計算せずに客船を歓迎するのは見込み違いともいえます。
これらの「浮き都市」は一気に何千人を観光目的地に放出します。ツーアバスによる都市部への混雑も同じです。完全に禁止する以外、このような一点集中の観光地への流れをより効果的な方法で規制することがあるはずです。

大勢の入場制限
どの人気スポットは日中、時間帯によって混雑することは当たり前です。しかしその時でも同時間帯ですべての道、神社や名所が混雑しているわけではありません。もし何らかの方法で来客者の人数を分散することができれば、見るほうはより充実した体験につながり、店員はより少ないストレスと苦情の対応で接客ができます。また文化的、環境的にも観光地の保存がより可能になります。
現在改修工事中の広島平和記念資料館では優れた展示を十分堪能するのに人が多すぎるという声がよく聞かれます。特に騒がしい印象を残す修学旅行生によって自分のその時の体験を害したとインタビューに答えた外国の観光客の声もありました。静かに展示を見て回っているときに一斉に入館した大勢の制服姿の修学旅行生をうるさく、失礼とも感じました。

この情報をもとに開館時間をより早く、閉館をより遅く設定することで改善を図れます。また修学旅行生の入場を混雑していない時間帯で対応するのもよいでしょう。また最も混雑する時間帯では最適な受けいれ人数を考え、入場制限をかけます。しかしこの「最適受けいれ人数」をどのように測ればよいでしょう。いくつもの計算方法はあることは確かですが実際に展示一つ一つに集中する数が違うため誤算は生じやすいです。それよりデータ分析を用いて実際の滞館時間とその質を参考にすることは適切な結果が出ます。観光地で効果的に大勢の人を動かすことで成功しているのは東京ディズニーランドやディズニーシーです。

ファストパス
混雑緩和に友好的な方法としてディズニーの有名なファストパスがあります。例えば広島の平和記念公園でお客様は先に平和記念資料館を訪れ、待ち時間の表示を参考にそのまま列に並んで待つか、およその入場の時間帯を提示してのちに入場することを決める方法は可能でしょう。同じようにお寺や神社、レストランなど様々な行先につかえます。

ミュージアムショップ・展示スペースから入館
アメリカでシアトル・スペース・ニードルやエンパイア・ステート・ビルに用いられているやり方も効果的です。お客様をミュージアムショップやちょっとした展示紹介スペースに誘導しながら緩やかなスロープを使って人の流れを自然にゆっくりとしたものに成功しています。自撮りをしたり、おみあげを買ったりとただ列に並ぶより来客者の気持ちもゆったりとしたものになります。

Translation by Associate Professor Andrea Kitahara / 翻訳:準教授 北原アンドレア

2 Replies to “Staggering the Crowd Adds Value”

  1. An interesting read.

    I haven’t experienced the worst examples of this in Japan but I tend to travel off the beaten path and use off-peak and low season to avoid big crowds. I encourage others to do the same.

    This would help stagger tourism at a higher level and is more sustainable too.

    1. Thanks for your comments Rob!
      Certainly off-the-beaten track is the best means of avoiding crowds, but those who visit Japan often have the same bucket list of key attractions they want to see during their 1 week to 2 week trip and those spots are usually shared by millions of other travelers. Improving transportation to off-the-beaten track locations as well as improving the information about the appeal of these areas and how to access them is key to creating change. That is where websites like yours can play such an important role!

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