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News Navigator: What issues does Japan face in attracting more foreign visitors?

The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about the government's efforts to significantly boost the number of visitors to Japan.

    Question: I've heard that the government has put together a strategy to double its target for the number of visitors to Japan by the year 2020. Is that right?

    Answer: The government had initially set a goal of welcoming 20 million people to Japan in 2020, but last year the figure had already reached 19.73 million -- a roughly 50 percent increase from the previous year. This placed the government nearly five years ahead of schedule. As a result, it now aims to welcome 40 million people in 2020 and 60 million in 2030.

    Q: Can those targets be achieved?

    A: There remain various issues to be addressed, such as an existing shortage of hotel rooms, and the question of how to attract people to regional areas other than the popular destinations of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

    Tokyo and Osaka in particular have faced a shortage of hotel rooms, so efforts are being made for foreign visitors to stay in Japanese-style inns. In order to attract foreigners to regional tourist spots, it is also necessary to disseminate information. Small- and medium-sized businesses in Japan have been slow to produce versions of their websites in multiple languages, with just 1 percent having done so in the spheres of travel, leisure and food. The government is now supporting efforts to produce multiple language versions of such companies' websites.

    Q: What other efforts are being made?

    A: At present, the majority of visitors to Japan are from Asia -- but the government hopes to welcome more foreigners from other areas as well including Europe, the United States and Australia. To encourage wealthy people to stay longer, it plans to accept more business jets at Haneda Airport and Narita Airport. Moreover, it plans to increase the number of duty-free stores in 1,500 shopping districts and tourist spots across Japan by 2020. While various policies exist that involve both the public and private sectors, it is not known how effective they will turn out to be.

    Q: Will this affect people's lives in Japan?

    A: The government opened up the State Guest House in Tokyo for public viewing, and is also considering measures to make it easier to build hotels and visitor centers in national parks. It is additionally encouraging the conversion of empty buildings into hotels, and is aiming to allow for an increase in the total floor space in hotels. Achieving these things is likely to benefit not only foreigners, but also people in Japan who travel domestically. The measures may also help to alleviate difficulties in booking hotel rooms in Tokyo and Osaka. (Answers by Masahiro Kawaguchi, Business News Department)

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