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From January 16th to 21st, 2017, "Hokkaido Snow Travel Expo 2017 in SAPPORO" was held in Sapporo,Hokkaido.
With the purpose of attracting foreign tourists to visit, many travel agencies and media were invited from abroad and guests were given an opportunity to experience snow resorts in Hokkaido. This season is the 6th year for the expo.
The executive committee that consists of 14 snow resorts and relevant local governments hosted the event. In addition to experiencing Hokkaido skiing and holding business meetings, city sightseeing was included in the program this year since the location is in Sapporo city.

Approach to Sapporo, a big city in the north.

The Expo events were held in winter resorts in Hokkaido in the past but it was held in Sapporo city this year. In the first and second days, participants were split to 4 courses based on purpose such as powder skiing, family skiing, or sightseeing, and visited Rusutsu, Niseko, Kiroro, Furano, Sahoro, Yubari, Tomamu, or Otaru, accordingly.
After that, all groups stayed in Sapporo city and attended business meetings and parties that were held in the convention hall of Sapporo Prince Hotel. It must have been a good opportunity to introduce wide varieties of winter resorts in Hokkaido as well as promote the big Sapporo city.
The opening ceremony was held on the 3rd night by gathering all participants. The panel discussion also was held in the night. This year, 58 participants came from 14 countries from both Asia and Western countries. The number of participants was bigger than last year and especially people from Western countries increased. It is indicated that Hokkaido winter resorts have gathered more attention.
In the panel discussion, Tadashi Endo, a guest associate professor at the Center for Advanced Tourism Studies of Hokkaido University, served as discussion moderator and brought up discussion issues.
Four panelists joined the discussion, Richard Rice, the representative of a British tour company "Ski Safari", Alice Ching, the founder of a Malaysian tour company "CK Vacation", Paul Hagard, a tourism consultant who immigrated from New Zealand to Hokkaido, and Emi Kawabata, a ski racer who used to compete in Winter Olympic Games.
Emi Kawabata who was born in Sapporo and experienced many ski resorts over the world said that Sapporo is an amazing big city because public transportation works properly under conditions of 4m of snowfall, and she also said that she recognized once again how good Hokkaido's snow quality is.
Paul Hagard who lives in Niseko presented his opinion that although Hokkaido ski resorts are not as high elevation as other western countries, snow is light and the season is longer, and that especially Niseko became successful due to the location being nearby a town, which meet visitors' needs of hanging around outside.
Richard Rice who is based in the UK mentioned that his company currently guides a million customers to winter resorts in France, USA, and Canada every year and his next target is winter resorts in Japan and that the key is to be able to touch with Japanese culture and to be able to communicate in English.
According to Alice Ching from Malaysia, snow itself is a novelty to tropical countries so it is hard to really enjoy skiing, instead, she is going to propose playing around in snow, Onsen hot springs, and sightseeing to her customers.
We see differences of customer needs between countries in how they enjoy Hokkaido and what services that they seek for.

Experience Hokkaido food and culture in the welcome party.

After the productive panel discussion, all participants shifted to a ball room where the welcome party was held. Sapporo city mayor and the chairman of Hokkaido Tourism Organization made a welcome speech and a toast and there was an announcement of the Sapporo Asian Winter Games to be held in February 2017.
In the reception party, a whole yellowtail fish was treated to those attending and served as Sashimi (eat as raw) or Shabushabu style hot pot. Also chefs prepared Sushi and cooked ramen noodles in a corner to serve them freshly. Everyone enjoyed the proudly served seafood and local foods of Hokkaido.
Alcoholic drinks were lined up at the drink corner from Hokkaido limited Sapporo Classic to sake and wines that are made in Hokkaido. Participants tasted different kinds of alcoholic drinks while listening to explanations of them.
The local mascot character "Ezomon" for the Sapporo Asian Winter Games 2017 showed up. He walked around the party room and participants took pictures with him.
Ainu culture was introduced by cooperation with the AINU Museum. Ainu songs, a traditional stringed instrument "Tonkori", a unique instrument "Muckri" that the player holds with their mouth and make sounds by pitching a string, and dance with ancient rites, were performed.
"YOSAKOI Soran Festival", a local dance festival that is held around the Sapporo Odori Park every Summer, is a popular big event. The legendary team "Shinkotoni Tenburyujin" that has a history of winning the contest in the "YOSAKOI Soran Festival" four years in a row from 2004, showed their dance performance at the party. The dance is Japanese style but the music is jaunty, and the room atmosphere was lively once performers started dancing with gorgeous dresses.
An opportunity for participants to experience YOSAKOI dancing together on the stage was offered and participants enjoyed posing for the dance and learning by imitation.

Business meetings that link Hokkaido and overseas.

On the day after the fun event in the previous evening, business meetings were conducted from morning in the Sapporo Prince Hotel International Convention Center. About 45 different tour companies in Hokkaido joined the event and interviewed foreign guests in a 15 minute meeting for each.
Understanding customer needs is important to be chosen to visit sustainably among many nice resorts over the world. Therefore, this business meeting is a key of promotional activities.

Experience winter season specialty of sightseeing and local foods.

In the evening, after business meetings, participants took a bus ride to "Ice Star Hotel" that locates in Makomanai, Sapporo, for observation. A fantasy building that is made of ice and snow just rises up in a golf course property only in winter. You can enjoy cuisines that are made of local food materials in the club house and also can experience activities like a snowmobile, banana boat, and snow tube to speed off on the snow.
This is the Ice Bar where you can enjoy drinks and alcohol. Drinks are served with ice glasses so you can enjoy ice-cold drinks.
There are three ice buildings and you can actually stay the night in the buildings that facilitate ice beds. High quality cold-proof and comfortable bed linens are provided.
Participants hung out in Sapporo city and experienced local foods at night. Participants picked their favorite one to go among options of sushi, Korean BBQ, Genghis-Khan Mongolian BBQ, Ishikari hot pot, traditional ash grill, and izakaya style restaurants. The picture shows the group who went to an izakaya style restaurant. This kind of local Japanese atmosphere is novel to foreign visitors.
Izakaya style restaurants in Hokkaido usually serve fresh and good seafood. This Izakaya style restaurant is very popular in this area.

Challenge skiing in a ski resort nearby the city.

One program was to visit a ski resort nearby Sapporo city. Participants split into four groups and some groups actually skied or snowboarded in Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort, SAPPORO TEINE, or SAPPORO BANKEI SKI AREA. Other groups went watching all those ski resorts without skiing. All those ski resorts are close to Sapporo city, therefore, participants could understood that this area is a great location from which people can easily go skiing to different resorts.
Instructors who can speak English guided participants in the ski resorts. Participants were divided by skill level and each group went checking around their courses at first. Beginners who never skied were instructed on the basics of skiing. Recently 90 % of foreign visitors to Hokkaido are from Asia. Especially visitors from China has increased. To respond to the trend promptly, there are programs to raise instructors who can teach ski techniques to Chinese.
In the SAPPORO TEINE, Emi Kwabata provided a demonstration of skiing. And she stated "You will improve your skills 20% faster if you practice on the good quality snow of Hokkaido." Hokkaido locates in the north of Japan and the temperature is low, therefore, you can enjoy powder snow from December to April and this soft and light snow allows you to ski easily.
The SAPPORO TEINE was chosen to be the competition venue for Alpine skiing events, Bobsled, and Luge in the Sapporo Winter Olympic Games in 1972. The Olympic flame platform still remains. On the way back to the city after the ski experience program, participants came by "Okurayam ski jumping hill" where the ski jumping competition was held for the Winter Olympic Games and enjoyed sightseeing there.

Finale at the National Important Cultural Properties certified "Hoheikan"

The farewell party that closed the whole event was held in "Hoheikan" in Sapporo city. This western style building was built in 1881 and it is a prestigious building that is certified as a National Important Cultural Property. PR videos of winter resorts were shown in the party and participants enjoyed the gorgeous party atmosphere by chatting with drinks.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Hokkaido was 2.08 million in 2015. The number increased from 1.54 million the previous year and the name of Hokkaido has been spread more. Especially Niseko is a famous ski resort from Hokkaido known over the world. Many Australians come to Kucchan area in winter and visit various ski resorts starting from Niseko.
However, Hokkaido has many more winter resorts and cities so there are different opportunities to enjoy visiting other places like Sapporo and Otaru or Asahikawa. It is hoped that foreign visitors recognize other cities and winter resorts in Hokkaido through experiences offered by visiting various ski resorts from the big Sapporo city such as through this event.



The invitational event that is produced by the Hokkaido Ski Promotion Council for the purpose of attracting foreign tourists to visit through winter sports and snow activities including skiing and to promote international tourism in the area.