Prevent overtourism by making efforts to better disperse visitors

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe huge influx of tourists from abroad that visit Japan are welcome, but it is problematic that these visitors could be causing inconveniences in the daily lives of local residents. It is necessary to think hard to find ways to ensure locals can coexist with visitors to Japan.

Overtourism arising from the rapid increase in tourists is becoming an increasingly serious problem in some areas.

Kyoto becomes crowded with visitors during sightseeing seasons and there have been instances in which people traveling to work or students heading to school have been unable to board buses on regular routes. Traffic jams frequently occur in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, which reportedly has at times caused delays to ambulances.

The bad manners of some tourists also cannot be overlooked. According to a Japan Tourism Agency survey, many local governments have found themselves dealing with problems such as dirty public toilets, trash being discarded on residential property and people intruding into places where entry is prohibited.

There are concerns that unless countermeasures are quickly made, the negative impacts of tourism will worsen.

Government initiatives to attract people to Japan have been successful, with more than 30 million visitors in 2018. Taking just five years, this figure is about triple of what it had been. The government has set goals of 40 million visitors to Japan in 2020 and 60 million in 2030.

Annual spending by tourists to Japan tops ¥4 trillion. The ripple effects are considerable.

The problem is that tourists concentrate in certain places during certain times. Efforts designed to better disperse tourists around the nation will become more important.

Show charms off beaten path

In Kyoto, where the cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons are popular, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) is pushing a promotional campaign on the charms of the verdant maple leaves of early summer. Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures are calling on tourists to climb Mt. Fuji on weekdays.

It might be a good idea for famous tourist spots and the local governments in their vicinity to work closely together and come up with new travel routes that redirect visitor flows.

Venues for the Rugby World Cup that starts in September will be in 12 cities, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. This tournament will be a golden opportunity to show the world the charms of some of Japan’s lesser-known areas.

Unflagging efforts calling on visitors to improve their manners are also necessary. Full use should be made of various methods including notices, pamphlets and online channels.

Tourist numbers are increasing around the world. There have been many prior cases of overtourism in other nations, which could serve as examples for Japan.

In Barcelona, known for the UNESCO World Heritage cathedral the Sagrada Familia, residents have protested against garbage problems and congestion caused by tourists. Barcelona has taken steps such as banning construction of new hotels in the central part of the city.

Many residents have moved from Venice after becoming fed up with the city’s congestion. Venice has banned cruise ships from docking there and limited access to the city’s center.

Some restrictions also will be unavoidable in Japan if negative impacts of tourism increase. Some municipalities, such as Kyoto, have introduced an accommodation tax that will be used to cover measures to reduce tourism-related problems. Effective steps must be found to ensure that a pleasant, welcoming environment awaits visitors to Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2019)Speech


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