National

Japan to focus on cultural, historical sites in bid to pump up tourist numbers

Kyodo

With Japan determined to boost the number of foreign tourists visiting by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the government plans to maximize the use of cultural assets at 200 spots nationwide to spark visitors’ interest in Japanese history and culture, a draft of the new plan shows.

The draft, seen Sunday, says the government will introduce cultural properties and historical assets in as many languages as possible, while also repairing shrines and other historical sites and promoting local performing arts.

Where exactly the government will extend its support, however, has yet to be decided, government sources said.

The plan comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government — which sees tourism growth as a key economic strategy — works to counter criticism that some regions are not reaping the benefits of more visitors.

In 2015, a record 19.74 million foreign nationals visited Japan, but tourists are more inclined to head to so-called golden route sites, which encompass popular destinations such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, authorities said.

The government had set a target of 20 million foreign tourists by 2020, but is now weighing a fresh goal of 30 million to 40 million, the sources said.

Taking into account factors such as hotel availability in Tokyo, the government will set the new tourist target in a strategy to be compiled this month at the earliest, the sources said.

In hopes of luring more visitors to areas outside bigger cities, plans are also being drawn up to make it easier for tourists to travel to less known regions via train and other public transportation.

One of the ideas is to designate around 100 bullet train stations as key points for the dissemination of tourist information. Details, however, are still being discussed.

The government also plans to improve wireless communications in bullet train tunnels as well as the connectivity of highway buses and other rail services.

Another plan is to upgrade existing travel services, including the Japan Rail Pass system. The cost-effective rail ticket offers unlimited use of almost all Japan Railway trains, but can only be purchased abroad.

Beginning next month, these passes will also be sold domestically on a trial basis.

Japan also plans to increase the number of airports and train stations that provide luggage delivery services, allowing tourists to travel without being forced to carry unwieldy baggage.

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