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Do not stop making efforts to turn Japan into tourism powerhouse

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is essential to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan, thereby reinvigorating the economy. It is hoped that efforts will be heightened to achieve the goal of turning Japan into a nation that can thrive on tourism.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan topped 30 million in 2018, marking a threefold increase over a five-year period. The government goal of raising the figure to 40 million in 2020 is coming within reach of attainment.

Foreign visitors’ spending has also reached an all-time high. Such spending can be expected to grow in Japan, where the domestic market is shrinking due to the population decrease. The increase has been partly due to the benefits of the yen’s depreciation, but it can also be seen as a result of the relaxation of visa-issuing requirements for visitors from other Asian countries and other government measures. All this can be praised as a good case of success due to the government’s growth strategy.

Carefully attentive hospitality can make foreign tourists fond of Japan. Doing so will promote international understanding of this country.

What is worrying is that there is a lull in the increase in foreign tourists to Japan. In 2018, the figure increased by 8.7 percent, a decline from 19.3 percent from a year earlier. This year’s January-March period saw a mere 5.7 percent growth on a year-on-year basis.

This was largely due to the influence of last year’s natural disasters. Foreign tourism was adversely affected by such factors as a temporary closure at Kansai Airport due to a typhoon and a major blackout that accompanied the Hokkaido earthquake. Efforts should be made to facilitate a support system for foreign tourists to stay in Japan without anxiety.

The greatest difficulty experienced by people at the time of these disasters is that they were unable to recharge the smartphones they use to communicate with others and make payments. It is advisable to build more recharging spots and provide multilingual disaster information.

Invest in visitor satisfaction

Visitors from Asian nations and regions such as China, South Korea and Taiwan account for more than 80 percent of the people who come to Japan. A major task for Japan in this respect is to attract more visitors from the United States and European nations, who tend to stay here for extended periods and spend a large amount of money.

Many tourists from the United States and Europe are said to visit Japan for such specific purposes as skiing and cycling. It is necessary to analyze this trend and reconsider whether there are any tourist resources that remain untapped, such as natural and cultural assets, food and recreational facilities.

This should be complemented by efforts to improve the dissemination of information on the internet, so such information can help foreign tourists in reserving accommodations and conducting preliminary research about tourist spots.

There has been a growing shortage of accommodation facilities in such well-known tourist sites as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Some have also said the increase in foreign visitors is hindering the daily lives of residents in their areas, such as the crowding of buses — in what is called “kanko kogai,” or tourism-related public nuisances. It is desirable to split up foreign tourists’ destinations, by encouraging visitors to go to regional areas that attract only a few people from overseas.

However, it should be noted that there are many outdated sightseeing and accommodation facilities in regional areas. It is crucial to make investments to raise the degree of foreign tourists’ satisfaction. In drawing foreign tourists to cultural assets, national parks and elsewhere, it is necessary to provide thoughtful services for them by offering multilingual explanations, including about the historical background of such spots.

Drawing foreign visitors is an effective measure to revitalize impoverished regional economies. Further ingenuity needs to be exerted in this respect.

There are many more tasks to be tackled, including the handling of cashless payments and the shortening of the time necessary for entry procedures. The public and private sectors should join hands in working steadily to resolve these problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2019)Speech



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