When some 20,000 ophthalmologists and members of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) descended on Tokyo in early April this year for the 2014 World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC), the Japanese capital rolled out the red carpet and concocted an extensive series of complimentary destination immersion programmes for delegates and their accompanying persons.
According to a spokesperson with the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB), 12 tour courses with five different routes and 12 cultural programmes with six options were offered during the congress period, primarily for accompanying persons.
Led by English-speaking guides, the sightseeing tours took participants to iconic tourist landmarks such as the Hama-Rikyu Gardens, Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree, while the cultural excursions offered experiences in traditional mochi pounding, origami, ikebana, Japanese calligraphy, kimono dress-up and ukiyo-e (traditional woodblock printing).
The programmes were offered on a first-come-first-serve basis, and each delegate and accompanying person could register for up to two courses.
Tour desks were set up in the registration area at the Tokyo International Forum and the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo – the two venues of the congress.
When asked if it was common for the city government and TCVB to develop such an extensive selection of complimentary tours for delegates of business events, the spokesperson said: “The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and TCVB select large-scale international conferences every year, based on the number of international delegates, to support by providing tours and cultural programmes. We also provide welcome desks at Narita and Haneda airports and fly welcome banners and flags around the event venue.”
And the investment is a worthy one, as it allows Tokyo to put its best foot forward in promoting itself as an attractive tourist destination for delegates to return to with their family and friends.
The 2014 WOC made a great event to leverage for destination promotion, as it was deemed to be the largest-ever international conference to be held in Tokyo. Sponsored by the ICO, hosted by the Japanese Ophthalmological Society, and co-hosted by the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology, the event was held concurrently with the 29th Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology and the 118th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Ophthalmological Society.
Although healthcare and pharmaceutical events are governed by strict laws to ensure transparency in event organisation and delegate benefits, among other things, TCVB told TTGassociations that the regulations did not affect the destination immersion programmes.
“Since the objective of the tours and cultural programmes offered by TCVB and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was solely for the promotion of tourism in Tokyo, the content was not restricted by the organisers,” said the spokesperson.
Besides the destination immersion programmes, delegates were also treated to a prized viewing of a cherry blossom tree that was brought from the Tohoku region and placed in an outdoor space at the Tokyo International Forum for the opening reception. The tree’s blossoms were timed to bloom during the five-day congress. Delegates also got to ride in a samurai ship from the venue to Tokyo Big Sight, where the Japan Night social function was hosted.
Event 2014 World Ophthalmology Congress – complimentary tours and cultural programmes
Organiser International Council of Ophthalmology, Japanese Ophthalmological Society and Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology
Date April 2 to 6, 2014
No. of attendees 20,000Objective
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau wanted to showcase the best of Tokyo to delegates, in hopes of encouraging them to return in the near future with their family and friends for a holiday