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Asian tourists serenaded by Japan's theme parks

Tokyo Disney Resort’s cat character Gelatoni, in the form of a truck, will greet event-goers in Taiwan until Monday.

TOKYO -- Japan's theme park operators are going all out to lure tourists from elsewhere in Asia, seeing a new opportunity as the interests of the country's repeat visitors shift from shopping to experiences.

Oriental Land, the operator of Tokyo Disney Resort, is using a van illustrated with popular cat character Gelatoni at promotional events in Taiwan through Monday. The blitz is designed to dial up the hype ahead of the start of ticket sales in February via travel agencies in six countries and regions, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

To make the facilities more friendly to Asian visitors, Disneyland and DisneySea have been broadcasting in-park announcements in Thai and Indonesian as well since April.

Foreign guests hit a record 9.6% of Tokyo Disney Resort's attendance in the April-September half. "Guests from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong grew 3.2% on the year," the company said.

Sanrio Puroland, located in the Tama area of western Tokyo, will start targeted advertisements on social media in December. Using GPS data from smartphones, the ads will be shown to foreign visitors arriving at the Tokyo area's Narita and Haneda airports. Park operator Sanrio also will partner with a Keio bus line in December for a service connecting Haneda Airport to Puroland.

Fuji Kyuko established an office in Thailand to market the Japanese company's entertainment sites. By attending more exhibitions and travel-related events in the country, the company aims to bolster name recognition of its parks located near Mount Fuji, such as Fuji-Q Highland and ninja theme park Oshino Shinobinosato.

Japan's foreign tourist numbers hit 20 million for the January-October period. The government aims to reach 40 million visitors annually by 2020 and establish the country as a major tourist hub.

Theme park operators look to foreign tourists with promise, as they "often visit on weekdays, when visitor numbers are typically low," a Sanrio official said.

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