Japan launches a free smartphone app for foreign travelers amid record-breaking tourism boom

by

Staff Writer

The Japan National Tourism Organization on Thursday launched a free smartphone app that allows travelers from abroad to look up destinations, restaurants and train routes as well as free Wi-Fi spots.

The app also includes listings of tax-free shops, ATMs and hospitals that provide services in foreign languages.

Offered in English, Korean and Chinese, the app is integrated with other useful websites, such as one offering safety tips. The Japan Tourism Agency site offers advice on what to do in emergency situations like earthquakes, tsunami or extreme weather.

Operated in partnerships with private-sector travel information providers, the app is downloadable at www.jnto.go.jp/smartapp.

The app was rolled out a day after the JNTO announced that the number of international travelers to Japan reached a record 18.9 million in the first eight months of 2017. The arrivals in August also hit a high of 2.48 million, up 20.9 percent from the same month a year before.

In August, travelers from China numbered 819,000, marking the first time foreign arrivals for a single month from a single country surpassed the 800,000 mark. The tourism boom is attributed to swelling ranks of individual travelers on the back of relaxed visa rules and more cruise ship services, according to the JNTO.

The agency said the number has continued to surge since the end of August and topped 20 million as of Sept. 15, reaching the milestone 45 days earlier than in 2016 when foreign visitors reached that mark at the fastest pace ever.