During my time as a student of the MAAPPS program at UBC, I am fortunate enough to have attended numerous enlightening talks, workshops and seminars by prominent scholars. Topics of these events range from political situation and economy in China, changing international order, public intellectual life, conflicts of the South China Sea, etc. I believe that that power and value of knowledge lies in sharing. In the following days, I’ll publish my notes and reflections from the talks I attended in the past year. Some of the information may be outdated but it still could act as a anchor point to better understand public policy.  

Reinventing Tokyo’s Central Business District: The Emergence and Impact of Urban “Tourismification”

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By Dr. Keisuke Enokido

Date: September 11, 2014

By providing a case study of the redevelopment of the Otemachi Marunouchi Yurakucho (OMY) district, the Central business District (CBD) in the metropolitan Tokyo, Dr. Keisuke called for the recognition of an increasing important and yet often neglected concept—urban tourism.

From urban planning’s standpoint, Dr. Keisuke provided the history, the redevelopment project of OMY and the success of such “tourismification” of this district. In terms of measuring success, I infer from Dr. Keisuke’s presentation that it simply means whether the renewed CBDs can attract more tourists or not. In an effort to theorize the study of urban tourism and “tourismification”, Dr. Keisuke termed two unique concepts: national “capiticalness” and global “cityness”. He argued that major global cities like Tokyo should, if possible, embrace such trend and renew the city by adding tourism elements into CBDs.

With regards to the policy making process, much as it involved stakeholders like the public, academic exports and so on, Dr. Keisuke specifically emphasized the importance of Mitsubishi Estate, a Japanese corporation which played a dominant part in the whole redevelopment project.

This is also one of the aspects that I found Dr. Keisuke’s research interesting. As a MAAPPS student and a former journalism student, when it comes to urban planning and use of city lands, the first thing that occurs to me is “what role does the local government play in it” or “what do the local residents think of it”. Surely in the eyes of urban planners and especially the major stakeholder Mitsubishi Estate, the redevelopment project of OMY, which includes turning some public space into high-end stores and shopping malls, is successfully for it brings a huge volume of tourism income to the city. But my concern is that, by doing so, the living expense of local residents will inevitably go up. Therefore, much as I acknowledge the successful redevelopment of the OMY, I still have doubts with reinventing CBDs into tourism spots.

Firstly, are these cities, Tokyo included, infrastructurally ready for the influx of tourists or not? Secondly, to echo my previous concerns, can the economic benefits of the tourismification outweigh its social impact? To be specific, how would the stakeholders balance profit gains and the living standard as well as the CPI of local residents? In the long term, will the local be as satisfied as they are right now with the current change? Thirdly, the OMY redevelopment project is smoothly carried out partly because the Mitsubishi Estate has almost a full control over the project. What about other cities that do not have such a dominant force, or, to frame it in a different one, can the success of the OMY’s policy making and enforcing process be duplicated in other global cities?

Take Hong Kong as an example.  To boost Hong Kong’s economy, the Hong Kong government launched the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) in 2003, allowing Mainland China travellers to visit Hong Kong on an individual basis. Economically speaking, IVS is a huge success for Hong Kong for it brought a marked surge in the number of Mainland Chinese visitors, which as a result boosted local tourism, retail and catering industries and the overall Hong Kong economy (Hong Kong Legislative Council, 2013).

But the scenario became nasty when it comes to personal matters.  Many local residents are furious with the “tourismification” of their city—a process which brings about skyrocketing living expense and rental costs, Hong Kong traditional stores being replace by international luxury stores only for the sake of attracting potential tourist buyers, traffic jam, increasing crowded space, just to name a few. Since 2012, local residents’ anger has aggravated into a serious protests against Mainland Chinese. The so-called “anti-locust” ‘protests call for restrictions on the IVS, which levels up the tension between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong locals.

Personally, I welcome the idea of tourismfication of CBDs but I would love to see further research about the feasibility of such notion.

 

Reference

Hong Kong Legislative Council, (2013). LCQ7: Impact of implementation of policy on multiple-entry permits on livelihood of Hong Kong residents. [online] Available at: http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201302/20/P201302200222.htm [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014].

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