The sound of flipping through pages of a notebook can be heard slightly. The sound suddenly stops. A woman opens a new page and passes the small notebook to a clerk.
A few minutes before, the woman had entered Katsuobune, a restaurant and a shop that sells Kochi’s famous food. She had started to look at goods with her eyes shining. Then she brought ginger candies and two cans of Yuzu drink to the cashier’s counter. When she paid for them, she took out something like a notebook before taking her wallet out of her bag. She flipped through the notebook and opened a new page. The clerk took the notebook and pushed a stamp on it.
“It’s a rare stamp, isn’t it?” the woman asks curiously.
“Yes, that’s right,” the clerk answers.
Since April 2022, “The Rare Stamp Event” has been held by Kochi Visitors and Convention Association, which carries the “Ryoma Passport.” Rare stamps have been distributed to visitors at some designated places. This event is expected to attract visitors from Kochi and other prefectures because the designated places are changed after an extended period. Due to such a division, visitors never get bored even if they have already been to the target place before then.
“This event can promote visitors to make a tour around Kochi,” Mr. Okamoto, who is working at Kochi Visitors and Convention Association, says.
Surprisingly, the “Ryoma Passport” is not just a passport you think. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a “Passport” is “An official document containing personal information”. However, more than that, the “Ryoma passport” becomes a beneficial item when people visit somewhere around Kochi. This is because they can get special perks only by showing the Ryoma Passport to a staff member. When people visit a place such as hot springs, road stations, and restaurants serving local dishes, they can collect stamps on the Ryoma Passport. The more stamps they collect, the higher grade the passport becomes. There are 5 stages described by their color: blue, red, bronze, silver, and gold. As the passport stages up, you can receive bigger perks. Due to the entertainment of collecting stamps and getting perks, Ryoma Passport can be said to be worth having than a general passport.
The Ryoma Passport system started in April 2012. It has been improved for several years. For example, it added color variations from three colors to five colors. Also, the number of facilities adopting the Ryoma Passport system increased until 2020. According to the research conducted by Kochi Visitors and Convention Association, at first, it was estimated that the number of users of the Ryoma Passport would reach 10 thousand in 2 years, but actually, it took only 5 months to reach the number. To this day, more than 250 thousand people use the Ryoma Passport, and 80% of them are people from other prefectures such as Osaka, Tokyo, and Hyogo. Ryoma Passport is attractive to many people regardless of where to live.
However, there are some difficulties with the Ryoma Passport. First of all, visitors had been decreasing from 2020 to 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Ryoma Passport was affected by the weakened demand. And at the same time, staff at Kochi Visitors and Convention Association also struggled with sluggish individual spending. To overcome this bad situation, they decided to resume some campaigns and events including The Rare Stamp Event. Fortunately, the number of users is now starting to recover.
Secondly, users cannot receive benefits if they have already upgraded their Ryoma Passport to the highest level. It means that they only have the Ryoma Passport, although it can be used as a record of memories in Kochi.
Another difficulty is that Ryoma Passport will be abolished shortly.
“No one expected that the Ryoma Passport system would continue until now because it was established as a temporary system,” Mr. Yamasaki, a staff at Kochi Visitors and Convention Association, says.
“We missed the right timing to quit the system”.
Although no one is sure if the Ryoma Passport system will be continued in the future, Mr. Okamoto, another staff at Kochi Visitors and Convention Association, strongly desires not to stop the Ryoma Passport system.
“As a person in charge of the Ryoma Passport system,” he says, “I hope that Ryoma Passport will continue to be a tourism tool that can have a positive effect on tourism in Kochi.”
And now, some people might wonder who can cancel the proposal to abolish the Ryoma Passport system. Is it the organizer? Is it people living in Kochi? No, it’s visitors. Where they live is not important. The challenge of Ryoma Passport has remained so far, but the strong desire of the organizers will move it in the right direction.
I don’t know Ryoma Passport could be so interesting!
I’m gonna get one too.
It is sad that this will be abolished. As a Kochi person, I just want it to be a collection.
I felt the Ryoma Passport was a great idea from a tourism standpoint and actually showed results!
It’s a shame that it’s gone.
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