Yusuke Sugimura, a native of Tokyo, Japan, has dedicated five and a half years of his professional career to fostering tourism and supporting local economies. Working as a municipal employee in the Industrial Promotion Division of Chofu City Office in Tokyo, Sugimura spearheaded projects related to tourism promotion and regional economic development.
Sugimura's current mission takes him to the historic city of As-Salt in Jordan. Nestled along a steep slope formed by three hills, As-Salt boasts historical structures crafted from distinctive yellow limestone. Recognized for its well-preserved state and the historical coexistence of Islamic and Christian communities, As-Salt earned the prestigious designation of "The place of tolerance and urban hospitality" as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2021. Since then, the city has witnessed a surge in foreign tourists, particularly from Europe.
However, challenges have emerged post-UNESCO recognition. Despite the increased influx of tourists, there is a notable lack of feedback regarding their needs and satisfaction levels. Effective communication with tourists is another hurdle that As-Salt faces.
In response to those challenges, Sugimura has implemented four tourism promotion initiatives aimed at ensuring the sustainable development of tourism in As-Salt.
The first initiative by him focuses on the establishment and operation of an official Instagram account. By regularly showcasing the picturesque cityscape and notable tourist spots, the account has garnered over 2,600 followers and achieved a total reach of approximately 380,000 people in just 18 months, establishing a robust platform for information dissemination.
The second initiative involves conducting visitor surveys. By providing both QR code-enabled and handwritten survey options, Sugimura has been able to analyze the demographics and preferences of tourists, gaining valuable insights into their needs.
The third initiative revolves around the issuance of a monthly newsletter. This newsletter consolidates information on all tourism-related activities, including conferences, VIP tours, local events, and children's activities, enhancing the visibility of tourism initiatives.
The fourth initiative is centered on enhancing the IT literacy of museum staff members. Sugimura has provided training in fundamental technologies such as Excel, design applications, web surveys, and QR code generation. Manuals have been created for each skill, and the knowledge has been compiled on a shared cloud platform to ensure the continuity of technical skills even after Sugimura's volunteer tenure concludes.
Through these initiatives, Sugimura aims to manage the temporary surge in tourism following UNESCO recognition as well as laying the groundwork for sustainable tourism development. The efforts have not only increased tourist engagement but have also addressed the crucial aspect of obtaining feedback and improving communication channels.
The impacts of these initiatives are evident. As-Salt is now on a path towards sustainable and holistic tourism development by embracing the intersection of cultural richness and modern technology. As the city continues to attract visitors seeking to explore its charming yellow limestone architecture and historic sites, Sugimura's endeavors stand as a testament to the transformative power of community-driven initiatives.