Developing rural resorts that can draw wealthy overseas visitors is the key to making Japan a thriving tourism-oriented nation, Mori Trust Co. President Miwako Date said Wednesday.

As part of a push to do just that, the real estate developer announced the same day that, in cooperation with hotel operator Marriott International Inc., it will on Friday open new Marriott luxury hotels at five such resort destinations.

The sites include the Lake Yamanaka area near Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture, the Izu hot spring resort in Shizuoka Prefecture, Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Nanki Shirahama beach in Wakayama Prefecture and the Karuizawa summer retreat and ski resort in Nagano Prefecture.

Date said opening global brand hotels in resource-rich but not as globally known prefectures will help attract more foreign tourists beyond already-popular staples such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

She said the company plans to invest ¥100 billion to open 10 more luxury hotels in Japan, including one in Okinawa, two in Nara, three in Tokyo and four others in rural resort areas by 2023.

“Many tourists used to came to Japan for shopping, but nowadays more people come to enjoy experiences in Japan,” she told The Japan Times in an interview Wednesday. “But more people are now aware of the attractiveness of Japan, so I think the future of the country’s tourism industry will be bright for years to come.”

In recent years, Japan’s inbound tourism has seen brisk growth. Last year, Japan smashed its record, hitting 24.04 million foreign visitors, an annual trend that has been continuing so far this year. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, 13.76 million travelers have already visited as of June, up 17.4 percent from the same six-month period a year earlier.

The government has set a goal of attracting 40 million foreign tourists by 2020 and 60 million by 2030.

It has pinned its hopes on luring more tourists to areas outside the so-called golden route — the common tourist course from Tokyo to Osaka and Kyoto — which it believes is key to achieving these goals.

However, Date said that while drawing more foreign tourists to less-trodden areas is a prerequisite, the government must also focus on attracting wealthy tourists, known to drop large amounts of cash, to big cities.

She said most hotels planning to open in urban areas are reasonable “budget hotels.” But if the government wants to achieve its goal of ¥15 trillion in annual spending by overseas tourists by 2030, “attracting more wealthy tourists is important.”

“The ongoing plan (to attract wealthy tourists) is not enough, and that’s why we are trying to boost our investment in luxury sectors,” she added.

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