October 20-21 Kaunas’ Centre of Asian studies held international conference “Travel and mutual understanding: East Asia, Europe and Beyond“. The conference focused on travel as an opportunity for inter-cultural learning and the improvement of tourism ties between Europe and East Asia. The conference has attracted international scholars from Estonia, Lithuania, Japan, UK and other countries and was marked as a great success for the Centre of Asian Studies. The scholars introduced their research about history, tourism policy, tourism industry and other topics related to the East Asia’s tourism.
On the first day, the scholar Yasuhiro Watanabe (Obirin University, Japan) gave a keynote speech on Japan’s outbound tourism. Watanabe has been working in the tourism business for 26 years, but currently he teaches Business English. In his research, Watanabe focused on the dilemma of succumbing business of international traveling agencies. Despite the ever increasing numbers of Japanese tourists traveling overseas, the agencies fail to establish their market. One explanation given by Watanabe was the late emergence of tourism in the country.
An interesting finding by the academic that could explain the reason was the absence of geography classes in schools. It was not until an Education reform in the late 1980s that the Japanese pupils started learning more about the world and Europe. Only around that time Europe become people’s travel destination. However, the lack of information and general knowledge led to travel agencies failing appeal to the people and take over the market.
The potential of “Green Travel”
Linas Didvalis from Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania introduced his research that looked at ecotourism as a new way of attracting tourists. “Ecotourism is one of new directions of tourism and many tourists are prepared to pay extra to obtain “green” travel experience” said Dividalis. Ecotourism is a way to redirect tourist flows from crowded spots to less discovered places. It allows to sustain the well-being of local people and conserve the environment. In case of Lithuania, Dividalis sees the beauty of country’s nature as the selling point for international tourism. East Asian tourists also find it an attractive aspect of Lithuania. However, the biggest challenge ecotourism has to face is estimating the yearly flow of tourists. Poorly managed expectations of incoming people leads towards endangering natural environment.
Discussion For Future Representation of Lithuania in East Asia
The second conference day was dedicated to the discussion “Tourism between Lithuania and East Asian countries: how to benefit from growing opportunities and deal with challenges”. The discussion was attended by the conference participants as well as scholars and practitioners from Lithuanian tourism institutions and businesses. The focus of the discussion was the question of what Lithuania can offer to East Asian countries. One of the main concerns raised during the time was the shortage of professional guides fluent in Asian languages. Currently, the country is not capable fully dealing with growing tourism and attraction from the East Asia. At the moment, Lithuania has a tourism representative only in Japan and hopes that in the future there will be more representatives present in China and Korea as well.
List of Conference Presentations:
“Beyond the ‘Glimpse of the Unfamiliar’: non-visual senses in 19th century Western contact with Japan” by Ian Rapley (Cardiff University, UK)
“Destination Europe” will revitalize Japan’s outbound tourism” by Yasuhiro Watanabe (Obirin University, Japan)
“Ecotourism in East Asia and Europe: a meta-analysis” by Linas Didvalis (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania)
“Encounter with the Other, encounter with Self: Japanese philosophers go west” by Kristýna Vojtíšková (Charles University, Czechia)
“History of travel writing about Japan in Estonia” by Ene Selart (Tartu University, Estonia)
“Kumano as a distinctive pilgrimage area in medieval Japan” by Zuzana Kubočakova (Masaryk University, Czechia)
“My academic journey, issues in cross-cultural research, and Japanese tourists and the UK” by Takamisu Jimura (Liverpool John Moores University, UK)
“When tourism meets nationalism: Zaitokukai and Korean tourists in Tsushima” by Arvydas Kumpis (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania)
Page to full program: http://asc.vdu.lt/lt/2016/10/conference-on-tourism/
Author and Photographer: Brigita Arlauskaitė
Editor: Sida Nakrošytė