Tourism bill aims to bring foreigners to small cities

A bill to attract more foreign tourists to Japan is to be submitted to the Diet Mar. 12.

Amid sluggish growth in the industry, the Cabinet approved the bill Mar. 11, Transport Minister Makoto Koga said. The bill, which is in line with the ministry’s 10-year program adopted last year to double the number of foreign tourists to 6 million, includes various measures to promote tourism through attracting more foreigners to small cities.

Under the bill, the ministry would create a new license system for English tour guides qualified for a specific region. The ministry officials said that people who want to become such guides would only have to take a language examination and attend a seminar on the region’s history and geography.

Currently, to be an English tour guide, applicants are required to pass language and other national examinations. The new bill would also simplify the ministry-approved fare process and allow operators of various transport systems such as railways and airlines to jointly offer discount passes for foreign tourists.

Currently, each company’s discount fares must be approved individually by the ministry. The bill would also provide various tax incentives for hotels and local governments that construct facilities for tourists. In 1992, the number of foreign tourists in Japan peaked at 3.58 million. The number declined to 3.35 million in 1996.