• Kyodo

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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.