Representatives of Aichi prefecture have told IAG Japan they are still determining whether the short-term development of an integrated resort is possible following delays to the process as a result of COVID-19.
Located in central Japan, Aichi is one of a handful of locations to have expressed interest in IR development in the past without having made any formal decision on its intention to either take part in, or refrain from, the upcoming bid process.
However, IAG Japan understands there are a number of operators still watching closely to see which way Aichi swings, desite having previously shown interest in other locations around Japan.
While Aichi has not budgeted for an IR bid, an official from the prefecture’s Regional Revitalization department told IAG Japan, “We are still thinking about IR. One issue is that we have our hands full with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In December of last year, Governor Omura said he wanted to ask [the operators] about possibilities, but this was also put on hold for COVID.”
Pressed on the fact that operators were still waiting to see if Aichi would consider a bid for Japan’s first round of IR certifications – the central government will accept applications from October 2021 to April 2022 – the same official explained, “The issue right now is not whether to apply or not. We are at the stage of considering whether or not such operations are even a possibility.”
This suggests that, should authorities determine an IR would prove successful, there is a good chance Aichi will enter the race.
The prefecture is also in the midst of promoting the “Aichi-Tokoname Super City concept” which aims to promote the city as one of the top tourist destinations in the world by incorporating a wide range of cutting edge technologies around Chubu Centrair international Airport island and the surrounding area.
This concept aims to include MICE development within the airport island and the surrounding area, although it is a completely separate project from any IR. However, such MICE development goals seem to fit well with the Japanese government’s stated MICE goals for IRs in the country.
“[Naturally] if Aichi decides to pursue an IR bid, this concept and an IR could mutually cooperate,” the official said.
While Aichi is a location of interest to several candidate operators, time is quickly running out. There are many who believe the prefecture represents one of the more attractive opportunities in the country due to its central location, good accessibility right next to the airport, somewhat development-ready IR site and comparatively modest investment requirements – at least compared to the likes of major metropolitan locations such as Yokohama or Osaka.
Aichi has also attracted strong operator interest, even if somewhat behind the scenes.
At the Prefectural Assembly last September, the prefectural policy planning bureau director stated, “We are proceeding with inspections and research at Chubu Centrair international Airport and the surrounding area [50 hectares on the airport island owned by the prefecture is available for use] in the hope of realizing an international tourist city with a focus on MICE.
“[When collecting opinions], a total of 13 companies participated, including four domestic and international companies interested in development and operations as well as nine domestic companies with first-hand knowhow.
“[However], due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were limitations, particularly to overseas operators’ considerations for marketability and operability. We hope to learn more through hearings.”
There has been little news since.