Dr Monica Chien and Dr Sarah Kelly are working to promote Kobe as a destination.
Dr Monica Chien and Dr Sarah Kelly are working to promote Kobe as a destination.
2 May 2017

The University of Queensland Business School is helping shape Brisbane’s sister city Kobe into an attractive international sports and tourist destination.

Ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and 2021 Kansai World Masters Games, UQ lecturer and tourism researcher Dr Monica Chien and former MBA director and senior lecturer Dr Sarah Kelly are assisting Kobe to capitalise.

Dr Chien said the three major events presented a golden opportunity to put Kobe on the map.

“Many western tourists who visit Japan go to big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, or go skiing in Hokkaido, but Kobe isn’t traditionally a big tourist destination,” Dr Chien said.

The UQ academics were sent to Kobe, the sixth largest city in Japan, with support from a Japan Cabinet Office grant, the Kobe government, and Brisbane City Council to help reposition Kobe as an international destination.

Dr Chien said Japan is aiming for an influx of 40 million international tourists by 2020.

“Kobe will need to address how to make the city appeal to international tourists as well as counter the logistical challenges that would come with a huge boost to tourism in the area,” Dr Chien said.

“They also need to work out how they will attract sporting teams so that they base their training camps in Kobe in the lead up to these sporting events.

“This project has major implications for other non-host cities of mega sporting events, especially in Japan’s Kansai region, in terms of sports participation, destination branding and development of social and environmental benefits.”

Dr Kelly said research on the impact of mega sporting events is timely, not only for Japan, but also in Australia ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

As a result of international engagement by UQ Business School staff, students enrolled in the Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management’s Event Marketing course now have the opportunity to work on a real-life industry project.

Students are being tasked with developing a report addressing how Kobe can appeal to international tourists and how to manage the logistics of dealing with a huge tourism boost.

“It is great to see the relationship developed through our research has flowed on to enhancing our student experience and global learning, in addition to our government’s relationship with our sister city,” Dr Kelly said.

The best student report will receive a prize from the Kobe city government.

This project came as a result of a seminar that Dr Chien and Dr Kelly delivered in Tokyo in conjunction with Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting, one of Japan’s leading consultancy firms, in November 2016 on issues relating to the 2019 Rugby World Cup the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The event was attended by more than 60 representatives from industry, prefectural & municipal governments and non-profit organisations.

One of the attendees, the Assistant Manager of the International Sports Promotion Office of Kobe, invited the UQ representatives to visit Kobe, where they delivered a seminar to key stakeholders.

Dr Chien and Dr Kelly later produced two reports for Kobe officials on international tourism and sports development, and later a delegation from Kobe visited Brisbane and met with Brisbane’s Lord Mayor and senior UQ executive members.

Last week at a networking event in Brisbane, Dr Chien and Dr Kelly met again with Kobe officials to discuss future collaborations.

Media: Janardan Kewin, j.kewin@uq.edu.au, +61 423 916 037.