National

Over a quarter of municipalities in Japan worry more foreign visitors will mean more problems, survey finds

Kyodo

More than a quarter of Japanese municipalities have expressed concerns about potential problems resulting from an anticipated surge in the number of visitors to the country from overseas, a survey showed Sunday.

While the central government has seen the tourism boom in recent years as a catalyst for economic growth, the survey underscored confusion among local governments and others unaccustomed to dealing with guests from abroad.

In the poll, which was conducted by Kyodo News, 465 municipalities, or 27 percent of the total, said they worry that problems may occur in the future, such as traffic jams, noise issues and trespassing on private property.

More than half of them attributed their concerns to a lack of personnel who speak foreign languages.

The city of Fukui said it had yet to establish measures to reach foreign nationals traveling there in the event of emergencies.

Ninety-three municipalities, or 5 percent, said they had already faced problems due to tourists from abroad.

Many of them are located in areas where cruise ships arrive from abroad, including Tokyo and some prefectures in western and southwestern Japan.

One example is Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture. With a growing number of cruise ships making port calls, the island government is struggling to address issues such as a lack of taxis and buses.

The number of cities, towns and villages affected by tourism from overseas could increase next year when Japan sees an influx of foreign visitors for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Meanwhile, 860 municipalities, or 50 percent, said they do not believe they will have problems, with many of them citing a relatively small number of foreign visitors.

The survey was conducted between May and July, covering 1,741 municipalities nationwide, 99 percent of which responded.