Plan envisions more rural shops, homestays

Duty-free reform to boost tourism

Kyodo

To help achieve its goal to welcome 20 million foreign tourists annually ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Abe administration has finalized an action plan that includes doubling the number of duty-free shops and promoting more homestays.

The plan would see the number of duty-free shops, most of which are located in major cities, grow to around 10,000 and include more outlying areas.

“Japan has many products and attractions to offer tourists in various parts of the country,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at his office during a ministerial meeting on tourism promotion, during which the revised action plan was finalized.

The administration is counting on shops in the countryside to apply for permission to sell duty-free items once the rule limiting such products to electrical appliances and fashion goods is abolished in October.

All goods, including food, alcohol and cosmetics, will be able to be sold duty-free once the rule is abolished.

The action plan also calls for promoting low-cost homestays on farms by providing information online in several languages about host farms, given that “farmstays” are particularly popular among low-budget travelers.

The administration will urge travel agencies and railway operators to offer countryside tour packages.

Officials are also hoping tourism in the Tohoku region, devastated by the March 2011 natural disasters and nuclear crisis, can benefit from the Olympics.

Other measures include waiving visas for tourists from Indonesia, following the launch of a similar program for Thais and Malays last year.

Tourists from Vietnam and the Philippines will also be offered a simplified visa process if they sign up for designated travel tours, while the Abe administration will continue discussing waivers for those two nations.

The administration decided to revise an action plan created last June after achieving its target of attracting 10 million foreign tourists in 2013 and Tokyo won its bid to host the Olympics.

  • Chandrakant Kulkarni

    Just 2 days before, I said on my Facebook that – ‘Abe is Japan’s Narendra Modi!’

  • disqus_78r6IPfptX

    “Duty-free reform to boost tourism” and “Narita Express train headed to Mount Fuji” are more ideas to boost foreign tourism in Japan, to encourage people to visit and shop here, and to make the country more inviting. Because Japan is so far away from most anywhere else a lot of attention always has to be paid to this point, to attract visitors wealthy enough to get here and then to enjoy the country once they arrive. Other suggestions include standardizing English signage to facilitate sightseeing, increasing English lessons in junior and senior high schools to facilitate communication with foreign visitors just in time for the 2020 Olympics, extending the hours of operation of trains and buses (even making them 24-hour services), boosting the number of bilingual emergency responders – police, paramedics and fire fighters – and other service providers – hoteliers, taxi drivers, bank tellers – to facilitate an easier sojourn in the country. They are all strategies to manifest Japanese “omotenashi,” or hospitality.

    It’s all good, but my immediate concerns are more mundane. I commute around Tokyo every day and I’m exhausted, especially in the hot summer months. I’d like to see more public bench seating in train and subway stations and in parks. Even on public streets. It’s more about boosting hospitality than boosting tourist numbers but it can’t hurt.

    I know that public seating is an expense. The materials – cement, wood, plastic or metal – and the design have to be commissioned and chosen. Then they need to be installed. After that they need to be maintained because there certainly will be some abuse and damage. As things are now I am put out when I walk through a huge underground station and it’s obvious that benches to sit and rest on never entered anyone’s imagination. What seating does exist on station platforms is wholly inadequate. Japanese don’t seem fond of public space. Or, the culture is not fond of people occupying public space, hence minimal public seating as a deliberate strategy to discourage loitering. I don’t want to loiter so much as simply rest my weary bones. Please.