Sustainable Tourism in Japan - innovation & inspiration

Sustainable Outdoor Events Create Destination Appeal : River-Do Hiroshima

October 13-14 was the first successful completion of a new event in Hiroshima city – a river SUP spectacular called RIVER-DO.

Long-time SUP business owner, Ryuji Nishikawa and his team of organizers of the River-Do event have successfully created a sporting event that builds community assets with minimal damage to the environment. Events like this create social equity, or value to the community, by creating access to activities utilizing local assets- in this case, Hiroshima’s rivers. The River-Do event also promotes a healthy lifestyle fun for individuals, groups and families – all ability participants can enjoy these activities which do not create much air, water, land or noise pollution.

I hope to see more events like this held across Japan that focus on low-carbon footprint activities (like SUP racing and SUP Yoga) which encourage people to exercise and enjoy the outdoors while also trying not to create pollution while providing food and drink services.

As sustainability in almost any form is a journey, not a final destination, there are some improvements to be made at future versions of this event. For example, perhaps fossil fuel using jet skis and boats could be replaced by kayaks and electric powered vehicles. Participant goodie bags were single-use plastic wrapped items in a plastic bag. In future, it would be better to use reusable bags and fill the bags with less plastic waste items. The Marche food court had a great waste separation section and participants were asked to pick up any garbage they saw along the river, but perhaps a ban on single-use plastics in the food stalls and an organized riverside cleanup during the event would improve the level of sustainability and adherence to the SDG targets which was one of the event’s advertised aims.

Overall, however, there are many positives to focus on. A very important aspect of the event is its success in building a new attraction for locals and visitors to enjoy. This creates a higher calibre of destination appeal for Hiroshima which can attract new residents and visitors to the city.

This sustainable event model could be applied to many other destinations across Japan which have easily accessible rivers, beaches, and public waterways. Many areas of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Nagasaki are perfectly suited to host similar events that encourage people to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, building a destination’s brand and appeal with minimal pollution.

River Do is a great example of sustainable event design- create activities that allow locals and visitors alike to enjoy a destination’s outdoor assets while enjoying fitness.

There is room for growth in the event creation sector of the hospitality industry. Events such as RIVER-DO which are focused on on river activity using SUP boards can be a perfect sustainable product. There should be a focus on using reusable containers and biodegradable packaging as well as organizing CleanUp activities as a part of the overall event. This helps reduce waste and the impact of plastics on the waterways, but it is also a chance to spread awareness of the plastic pollution issue. Finding events that do not create air, water, land or noise pollution while creating destination appeal, which also generates income, has more value to the economy if they can be done without damage to the environment wihtout an added burden of waste. Local residents, even those who don’t join, will feel that their community has a higher value if there are more sustainable events held which they can talk about and recommend to friends and family. This feeling of social equity among locals also helps to build appeal to visitors to destinations hosting sustainable events like this as a fantastic way to mix with locals while enjoying the sights and sounds of a destination.

Hope to see more events like this held across Japan.

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