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Japanese celebrity pushes for tourism
Japanese actress Kaho Minami toured city's sights as part of promotional tour

Karen K. Ho
Northern News Services
Tuesday, September 9, 2015

Japanese actress Kaho Minami descended on Yellowknife last week during a six-day promotional tour and photo shoot for Gold Magazine, a fashion publication distributed throughout the country populated by 126 million people.

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Kaho Minami, left, and Mayor Mark Heyck pose together in Yellowknife. The Japanese actress and wife of actor Ken Watanabe was in the city last week during a promotional trip and photo shoot for Gold Magazine. - photo courtesy of NWT Tourism

NWT Tourism executive director Cathie Bolstad said the idea for the trip with Minami start after the GNWT's trade mission to Japan and China took place in January.

"A conversation was born there between the GNWT and HRA Group or Crossworks Manufacturing about wouldn't it be awesome to showcase all the things rare in nature here in a new and unique way?" asked Bolstad.

Crossworks is the diamond manufacturer that also runs the NWT Diamond Centre in Yellowknife. Boldstad said her organization started the conversation with its Japanese partners and reached out to her organization. It didn't take long for her to see it as a unique opportunity to promote the city's brand as the Aurora capital of the world.

"To be able to work with partners in the private sector to showcase this sparkle in the sky and the diamond industry as the sparkle under the ground, it enables us to distinguish ourselves as different from anybody else," Bolstad said. "It seemed like a match made for a marketing differential that we can make."

Minami's trip was funded through a combination of funds from De Beers Forevermark in Japan, De Beers Canada, the GNWT's fur division and NWT Tourism. It included stops at the Snap Lake diamond mine, Blachford Lake Lodge and the Aurora Village.

Bolstad was careful to emphasize that NWT Tourism's $20,000 was only for travel logistics after Minami and her group arrived in Yellowknife which did not pay for the flights from Japan but did cover the costs associated with taking her and her group within the territory.

Minami's trip to Yellowknife is already receiving attention through social media. During her time in the city, she posted photos and updates in Japanese to her Twitter account, which has more than 9,500 followers. They included pictures with dogs at Beck's Kennel -- a local business that provides dog sledding tours in the area -- her view from Pilot's Monument and the taxidermied polar bear at Yellowknife airport.

Asian celebrities have visited the territory before in a bid to help increase tourism abroad.

Earlier this year, Taiwanese-Canadian celebrity and model Godfrey Gao filmed a multi-part web series showcasing various activities around the country. Two of those episodes had a focus on the NWT, but that trip was primarily organized through the national tourism organization Destination Canada.

Bolstad also said there are currently no additional celebrity visits planned for the territory aside from the standard media trips.

It'll be a few months before the actress' six-page photo spread for Gold is scheduled to come out in November. Bolstad said it will feature diamond and fur products made or produced in the territory, the diamond mines and a few tourism activities. It will also target readers who are interested in travel and luxury goods.

"This market is very interested in what we have to offer," she said. "For us, that's huge value."

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment said there's been an increase in the number of Japanese tourists.

Richard Zieba, the GNWT director of tourism and parks, said the number doubled between the 2012-2013 season and 2013-2014 season to rise to between approximately 15,000 to 18,000.

Zieba said he has also seen tremendous growth among Chinese travellers who numbered 7,000 in the last nine to 12 months. Five years ago, he said there were only about 100 Chinese visitors.

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