Foreign tourists likely spent ¥3.5 trillion last year

Kyodo

Foreign travelers spent an estimated ¥3.5 trillion in Japan last year, the tourism minister said Tuesday. A previous high of ¥2.03 trillion was recorded in 2014.

The figure means foreign tourists brought a “tremendous” economic impact, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii told a news conference.

But he said Japan is still not fully oriented to the revenue source.

“There remain issues in terms of conditions for welcoming foreign visitors, and we would like to take appropriate measures to improve the situation,” he said.

The government has targeted annual spending of ¥4 trillion by foreign tourists and a total of 20 million visitors. Given that such spending is already within sight, it plans to set a new target by the end of March.

The number of foreign visitors in 2015 is thought to have reached the upper 19 million range, a jump from 13.4 million in 2014.

The likely record figure for spending follows government efforts including increasing the range of tax-exempt goods for foreign visitors in October 2014 to include food in addition to traditional duty-free goods such as electronics.

In 2015, the government established a system that allows foreign shoppers to go through the tax refund process at a single counter.

To help revitalize Japan’s economy, the government also aims to lower the minimum spending requirement for a tax-free purchase to ¥5,000 from over ¥10,000 per shop per day for certain items such as electronics and folk craft goods.