Ms. Manami KOBAYASHI

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San Francisco

Ms. Manami KOBAYASHI
Hello from San Francisco! Since I was assigned to be the San Francisco Tourism Representative of the City of Tokyo in April 2004, I have been spending busy days to meet people from travel agents and tourism-concerned organizations in Northern California to advertise the attractions of Tokyo as a tourist destination.
Before working as the Tourism Rep, I was employed by the San Francisco office of Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) International for nearly 16 years. My job at JTB for the first four years was in purchasing and reservation of hotel rooms and for the next twelve years in product development and sales. At both positions, I worked for "outbound" customers or Japanese tourists traveling to the United States. As the Tourism Rep, I now deal with customers whose flow is in the totally opposite direction. Since it requires me to build a new personal network, the work has been very refreshing to me. When I see retailers whose travel sales to Tokyo or Japan is limited, the first thing I hear from them is that "Tokyo is expensive." Interestingly, this has been a familiar phrase to me since my years at JTB, except that the subject then was San Francisco instead of Tokyo. At first, I was confused by this phrase but at some point I started to see the true meaning of "XX is expensive": it is simply a convenient excuse that travel agents use when they do not know how to sell tours to a specific destination. I learned that if the agents have clear views of what they want to sell and what they want customers to see and experience, they can plan a solid, creative tour that eventually attracts customers. If customers are happy with the contents of the tour, they won't call the tour "expensive." As the Tourism Rep, my role is to find appealing travel materials that lead potential tourists to take action and to provide such materials to local travel agents. I believe that Tokyo has a number of such interesting materials still undiscovered. It is my ideal to be like an "information magic box" for travel agents and offer information flexibly according to each need. For less-experienced retailers who still believe Tokyo is expensive, I would recommend specially-priced products by Japanese and other ethnic wholesalers; for experienced retailers who understand that Tokyo is not so expensive, I would find and provide more attractive travel materials. Besides working as the Tourism Rep, I have my own website, specialized in the wine country in Northern California, to offer an itinerary coordination and guide service to individual tourists and area promotions. As you may have guessed already, I spend my private time enjoying good drinks and food, and traveling--things I do and enjoy as work. I also love major league baseball and am a big fan of the local team, the Oakland Athletics. My goal is to discover and introduce traditions, exoticism and culture that Tokyo should be credited with. If you find any interesting travel topics and materials, please share them with us Tourism Reps.

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