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News Navigator: Why is the number of foreign tourists increasing in Japan?

(Mainichi)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the increasing numbers of inbound foreign visitors in Japan and its effects.

Question: How many foreign tourists visit Japan each year?

Answer: The number of tourist arrivals hit a record of over 30 million as of Dec. 18, 2018. Inbound foreigners have surged in recent years. Figures exceeded 10 million in 2013 and 20 million in 2016. According to 2018 statistics from January to November, the largest number of tourists came from China at 7.78 million followed by those from South Korea and Taiwan.

Q: Why is the number of foreign tourists growing?

A: One of the reasons is because the Japanese government eased visa requirements. For example, in 2011 some visitor visas for Chinese were turned into multiple entry visas that are valid for three years. Furthermore, the government pushed to expand the number of departure and arrival slots at Tokyo's Haneda Airport, increased low-cost carrier flights to Japan and took measures to attract more cruise ships. The government also introduced a law for "minpaku" private lodgings to pave the way for tourists to stay at homes and rooms. Japan has set a goal to welcome 40 million annual inbound tourists by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and 60 million annual tourists by 2030.

Q: What are the economic effects of the surge in the number of foreign tourists?

A: Tourism expenditure in 2017 reached 4.416 trillion yen, meaning that a single tourist spent on average about 150,000 yen. Tourism spending, which falls into the export category, earned the third-highest profits following the automobile and chemical industries, according to the government. Japan expects inbound tourists' spending to hit 8 trillion yen in 2020 if the number of foreigners reaches 40 million.

Q: Are there any hurdles for Japan to increase the number of tourists to the country?

A: The number of foreign visitors decreased by 5.3 percent in September 2018 compared to the same month the year before due to several natural disasters in the country. The figure fell for the first time in five years and eight months, casting light upon problems such as how to transmit disaster information to foreigners.

Moreover, popular tourist sites do not have enough accommodation facilities to deal with the rise in tourists. Some people say that old office buildings and other structures should be renovated to increase the supply of hotels. Japan needs to implement hard and soft infrastructure to welcome foreign visitors.

(Japanese original by Masahiro Kawaguchi, Business News Department)

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