Tomakomai takes the initiative on IR plans

The city of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, held a briefing session for IR operators in Tokyo on Friday afternoon, getting a jump on most other Japanese local governments and signaling their seriousness about pursuing an IR license.

Moving faster than the national government, this municipality has launched its “Investment Intention Survey in Relation to Tomakomai City Integrated Resort,” which they are asking prospective operators to return to them before September 22 of this year.

Operators which fail to participate in this initial survey will not be disqualified from a later RFP, but those who do enter the process at this early stage may have an advantage in the selection process, it is understood.

The briefing session pulled in more than fifty people representing IR operators and others considering bids with the Tomakomai city government. The main presentation, however, was not given by the city’s International Resort Strategy Office, but rather by KPMG AZSA, the audit corporation working for the municipal government.

The presentations outlined the basic vision, resources, and challenges of the Tomakomai site. Broadly, it was explained that Tomakomai has grown up as an industrial port city, but is now facing economic stagnation and population decline as the future of its manufacturing sector dims. The promotion of tourism, especially with Hokkaido’s leading New Chitose Airport in the immediate vicinity, is seen as the way forward for the development of the local community.

Tomakomai envisions that coexistence with nature and the highlighting of Ainu culture will certainly be elements that they will be expecting in the operator proposals.

Some of the participants expressed dissatisfaction that the Tomakomai officials could not answer some of their specific questions about the business terms under which the IR would operate, but other participants pointed out that there was no way for local government officials to adequately respond until the national government has published the overarching framework within which Tomakomai city and all other Japanese local governments must operate.