by Brooke Thio | January 07, 2019

When it comes to holding meetings and events in Japan's Kansai region, established cities like Kyoto and Osaka tend to enjoy top-of-mind awareness. Kobe, however, is steadily drawing more visitors with its cosmopolitan character. From being a port at the forefront of Japan's modernisation during the late 19th century, Kobe is now seeing exponential growth in the MICE industry.

The city hosted 7,097 domestic and international events in 2017, up from 4,159 in 2016, and it is raring to keep up this momentum with a host of new products and services, as well as its "Meet in Kobe" support package. 

"2019 is going to be a big year for Kobe that will bring a lot of MICE tourism to the city, through a number of exciting IT and medical conferences as well as world-class events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup," says Mika Kuroda, director at Kobe Convention Bureau. The city is aiming to win at least 10 bids for international conferences that are ICCA-listed in 2019.

Kobe's position as a hub for biomedical research, computational science and maritime logistics makes it a natural choice for events like the ICANN64 Annual General Meeting and International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) 17th World Congress, which will take place next year. Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company is also launching its first learning centre in Asia here, bringing approximately 13,000 employees to Kobe within the next five years.

Even so, the city is also enhancing its off-the-clock appeal with annual events like the Kobe White Dinner, a street party similar to the multi-city Dîner en Blanc that saw 650 attendees this year. There's also Rokko Meets Art, an outdoor modern art exhibition, and the Kobe India Mela festival. 

"While we do place importance on the number of bids, we recognise that it's not all about numbers," adds Kuroda. "We want to attract quality events to the city and provide organisers and participants with a quality experience in return." 

Fast FACTS

• 260 international meetings held in 2016, ranking 4th in Japan

• More than 60 convention and exhibition facilities, including over 19,500-sqm of event space at Kobe Convention Center

• 1,260 flights per week from 82 cities around the world to nearby Kansai International Airport