The transport ministry will provide assistance to prefectural governments in attracting foreign tourists, including designating historic areas and hot spring resorts as priority areas, ministry officials said Friday.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry also plans to allow governors to certify interpreter-tour guides to take foreign tourists around local designated areas, the officials said.

The system will be separate from the existing certification of interpreter-tour guides covering nationwide tourist spots, in which candidates are required to pass a national examination.

There is a need for local guides because there are many local tourist spots such as the holy grounds and pilgrimage paths in the Kii mountains straddling central and western Japan, in which guides need to have special knowledge.

The Kii site has recently been given World Heritage status by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

The ministry also plans to ask public transportation companies to provide information on their services in foreign languages and will encourage local road authorities to post foreign-language traffic signs in the designated areas, the officials said.

The measures are aimed at promoting the central government’s “Visit Japan Campaign” to double the annual number of foreign visitors to 10 million by 2010.

The ministry plans to submit a bill to the Diet early next year to approve the assistance plan, which requires revising a law on inviting foreign tourists.

Prefectural governments will select the designated areas for foreign tourists in their tourism promotion plans, the officials said.

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