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Kyoto business group chief wants Japan to quickly open up for foreign tourists

In this April 29, 2022, photo, people are seen walking in front of popular tourist spot Sanzen-in Temple in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward. (Mainichi/Yoko Minami)

KYOTO -- The head of Kyoto's local chamber of commerce expressed hope that Japan would "steadily move forward with accepting foreign tourists to revitalize economic activities that have slowed down" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Yoshikata Tsukamoto, who is also the chairman of major lingerie maker Wacoal Holdings Corp., touched on the inbound tourism in Kyoto Prefecture during a regular news conference on May 24. He noted that Kyoto's inbound demand had been particularly high among tourists from China, South Korea, Taiwan, as well as Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, and that Kyoto "didn't see many visitors from Europe or the United States, and they don't really shop here."

    He went on to say that it will take time for tourism in Japan to recover to pre-pandemic levels even if the country resumes accepting inbound travelers, and added, "What will be important moving forward is for us, including the prefecture and the city, to prepare (for tourists) and consider what Southeast Asian visitors want from Kyoto and how we can accommodate them."

    Tsukamoto also touched on Kyoto tourism during this year's long Golden Week holiday period from the end of April to early May, the first Golden Week since 2019 with no pandemic-related restrictions. He noted that while visitors returned to major tourist destinations, "Many of the holidaymakers were young people, and there were few older people and foreign tourists, who spend more per person on average." He added that hotel occupancy rates during weekdays remained at 20-30%, and that the tourism industry in Kyoto Prefecture was still struggling, with factors including soaring raw material prices.

    (Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Kyoto Bureau)

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