• Kyodo


Japan’s tourism boom continues, with the number of foreign passenger arrivals rising to another record in April of 1,764,000, up 43.3 percent from a year earlier, a government estimate showed Wednesday.

The record high for a third straight month, topping 1,526,000 arrivals in March, came as a weaker yen and government policy measures such as expanding the range of consumption-tax-free products has made Japan an attractive destination for foreign tourists.

There were around 19,000 shops nationwide in April registered to sell products to foreign tourists free of the 8 percent consumption tax.

The figure represents a three-time increase from a year before, highlighting hopes for Japan’s economic growth will be aided by robust consumption by foreign visitors.

The surge in April foreign passenger arrivals was due partly to tourists visiting Japan during the cherry blossom viewing season, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.

Arrivals from China more than doubled in April from a year before, topping 400,000 for the first time on a monthly basis.

Thai arrivals surpassed 100,000 for the first time, reflecting relaxed visa requirements and last month’s Songkran New Year holidays in the Southeast Asian country. The Easter holidays helped lift the numbers of Americans, British and French to record highs, the JNTO said.

The Japan Tourism Agency said a total of 18,779 shops had been registered with the government by April 1 to sell consumption-tax-free products to foreign visitors, up from 5,777 a year earlier.

The increase followed the government’s expansion in October of the range of products available for the tax exemption to cover all items from luxury brand goods to food and cosmetics.

But most such shops are located in the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. The government is struggling to attract more foreign visitors to rural areas, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to revive with stimulus programs.

Consumption by foreign visitors in Japan has been growing, totaling a record ¥2.03 trillion ($16.8 billion) in 2014.

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