- Yuki Katsutani
Hotel Key Forest Hokuto: planning a sustainable stay plan as part of a Japan Tourism Agency project
Updated: May 10
The tourism consulting service of our company Tricolage Inc. offers consulting services for the promotion of sustainability in tourism. We have recently supported a project to develop a sustainable accommodation plan at the Hotel Key Forest Hokuto, an accommodation facility operated by the Art Resort Kobuchizawa Art & Wellness (hereinafter 'KAW') in the Yatsugatake Southern Foothills area (Kobuchizawa-cho, Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture).
The plan, which will be launched as the 'Limited Time Only Sustainable Stay Plan', is a new service that enables guests to realise a sustainable travel experience throughout their entire journey, featuring a 'self-guided tour' of the local area and 'activity' experiences offered on each day of the week.
This article introduces this project as an example of our sustainable tourism services as Japan's first GSTC-certified tour operator.
Reforms to meet all needs for a sustainable hotel
With the growing importance of sustainable tourism due to the Corona disaster, there is nowadays a need for a different strategy to become the 'tourist destination of choice'. Naturally, this also applies to accommodation operators, and as a consultant, we help accommodation establishments to implement sustainability as a hub for the creation of 'sustainable' tourism regions.
The Yatsugatake region is known for all its natural attractions, but in recent years its sustainable community practices have been attracting particular attention. In this context, KAW, the surrounding resort area, was also looking for a way to launch the Hotel Key Forest Hokuto within its facilities as a sustainable accommodation facility in order to be part of sustainable development.
We therefore considered it key to offer a series of sustainable travel experiences, not only within the hotel facilities, but also in contact with the lifestyle of the Yatsugatake region. This not only attracts visitors to the land and people, leading to them becoming fans and repeat visitors, but also gives them the courage and motivation to practice sustainability in their daily lives after their trip by actually seeing and experiencing a sustainable society with their own eyes.
In order to provide such accommodation and travel experiences, we took advantage of the Japan Tourism Agency's 2022 pilot project 'Demonstration Study for the Promotion of Travel Services with the Accommodation Industry at the Core through the Introduction of New Business Methods'. We provided support for the project planning related to the application, and after it was adopted, we provided extensive support for the actual creation, production and PR of the new accommodation plan.
Tour planning with local communities in accordance with the international standard 'GSTC-I'
As the first travel operator in Japan to receive the GSTC Tour Operator Certification, we plan our business thoroughly in accordance with the GSTC Standards, the global standards for sustainable travel and tourism.
GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) is a non-profit organisation led by the United Nations that develops and manages the GSTC Standards: international standards for sustainable tourism. The GSTC standard consists of four main pillars:
A. Sustainable management
B. Socio-economic impact
C. Cultural impact
D. Environmental impact
*An interview with Tricolage about the company's GSTC certification can be found at Tricolage Becomes the First GSTC-Certified Tour Operator in Japan.
GSTC-I standards focused on in this project:
This project was no different, and we worked closely with local businesses and residents based on the GSTC-I (GSTC Standards for the Tourism Industry), with an attitude of contributing to maximising the social and economic benefits of the region.
■ Information 'gathered' through close interviews with local communities
Local participation is essential to achieving the B. Socio-economic standard among the four GSTC-I pillars. By actively conducting interviews with local communities and businesses, we have succeeded in realising a highly effective plan.
For example, one of the most common comments from the interviews with local people was "I want people to know about the existence of this wonderful spring". We took such voices and produced an original map - "Yatsugatake to Tsunagaru Map" - including springs that boast famous water and water supply spots that are not listed on Google Maps, with the aim of promoting round-trip tourism by travellers as a concrete measure. In addition, guests using this accommodation plan are given a 'Nakamura Keith Haring Museum' My Bottle as a present, providing them with an opportunity to visit the spring and enjoy the region's recommended Yatsugatake famous water in a more environmentally friendly way.
By visiting the area many times and actually experiencing it first-hand, we have been able to realise effective plans like this that are unique to the area.
In the yoga experience ('Yoga & Lunch Filled with Yatsugatake'), which was created with local businesses as one of the activities, the villa in the KAW Resort, which was previously limited to hotel guests, was opened to local people as a studio, creating a new opportunity for community exchange within and outside the region.
Unlike conventional accommodation experiences that simply provide a place to stay overnight, developing a comprehensive travel experience with local participation in this way can sublimate the experience into a customer experience with added value that is unique to the region.
■ Story telling and information 'sharing'
In order to increase satisfaction with our sustainable stay plans, we believe it is important to provide travellers with the necessary knowledge and information, so that they can get to know the area in advance. For this reason, we have focused on producing content that appeals to an understanding of the stories and attractions of the land and its people, including the natural environment and local culture.
One of the objectives of the newly launched Sustainable Stay Special Website for the project is to spread the story to visitors, and the following contents have been prepared:
➞ Sustainable Stay special website (only in Japanese)
A tour guide using a two-day stay as an example to enjoy sustainability in the Yatsugatake region from a variety of perspectives. The guide features spots that can be visited to practice and contribute to sustainability, all selected by our staff based on research and scrutiny of the local people and hotels in the area. This practical guide also includes recommendations for local shops and restaurants.
The aim is to find added value through experiences that enable travellers to build connections with local people in the rich natural environment of the Yatsugatake Mountains. Each activity page introduces the attraction of the experience, the significance of participating, and the stories and personalities of the businesses who support and provide the experience.
Yatsugatake to Tsunagaru map
Through interviews in the region, we produced an original map with comprehensive explanations, which includes unexplored areas and water-drawing spots that are difficult to find on Google Maps, making it a tool that can actually be used in the field.
Interviews with key people about the significance and value of participating in this tour. The aim is to help readers understand the deep relationship between the Yatsugatake region and sustainability, and to motivate them to practice "genuine sustainability" that goes beyond superficial actions.
Hotel initiatives & what you can do
Introduces the hotel's sustainable initiatives, including eco-friendly amenities and donation activities, as well as simple practices for travellers. The aim is to make travellers aware of the mechanisms that allow them to contribute to and practice sustainability in the entire process of our accommodation packages.
In the run-up to the release, KAW made numerous adjustments with stakeholders to ensure that the message they really wanted to convey was correctly guided and well structured.
■ Building sustainability in hotels
Hotel Key Forest Hokuto, the hub of this sustainable tour, had been involved in social contribution activities for some time, but had yet to develop specific guidelines and measures for sustainability.
Therefore, we provided support to build a system in which travellers can contribute to and practice sustainability simply by staying at the hotel, which is a feature of this project. In tackling sustainable tourism, it is important to create incentives, innovations and mechanisms to eliminate travellers' uneasiness and promote more sustainable travel. We identified issues and areas for improvement after our staff actually stayed at the hotel and fully understood the hotel service from the guest's point of view, and after repeated discussions with on-site staff, we came up with new measures, including the following:
Sustainable stay information booklets in hotel rooms
Sustainable Travel Pledge
Guest and environmentally friendly amenity products
Special Keith Haring My Bottle giveaway
Carbon offset scheme
A portion of the room rate allocated to community support donations
The real value for travellers is, of course, the hospitality and responsiveness of the staff and officials who actually welcome them on site. Naturally, we also conducted thorough employee training and meetings and on-site training to establish operations, in order to ensure that the new measures permeate the field.
Sustainability-related strategy formulation and business development must be carried out in full consideration of the characteristics, challenges and initiatives of the region and the business. In the case study presented here, Kobuchizawa Art and Wellness, which already has many elements of sustainability, was helped to further enhance its value as a sustainable accommodation operator by providing a high quality sustainable customer experience.
Tricolage is committed to helping local authorities and tourism businesses create sustainable tourism.
We want to develop policies and plans for sustainable tourism
We want to promote sustainability within our company
We want to create sustainable tours to meet the needs of future travellers
We know where to start
If you have any questions about sustainable tourism, please feel free to contact us! Let's work together to find the best sustainability solution for your company and your region.
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