In a remarkable turn of events, Japan is witnessing the return of international tourists at a pace nearly rivaling pre-pandemic levels, sparking elation in the tourism industry while unsettling local residents. To tackle the brewing problem of overtourism, Japan’s ever-resourceful tourism minister has unveiled a set of innovative measures.
Japan’s Tourism Revival
Japan’s September saw the triumphant return of over 2 million international visitors for the fourth consecutive month, almost touching 2019’s numbers. This travel resurgence, however, ushers in its own set of challenges. On the iconic Mount Fuji, there’s growing concern over environmental damage and safety issues, as hordes of visitors create literal traffic jams on its slopes.
To address these issues, Japan’s authorities have devised ingenious plans to counteract the downsides of mass tourism. A critical approach is to ramp up transportation infrastructure, including expanding bus and taxi fleets to gracefully accommodate the throngs that flood popular cities. In hotspots, taxi companies find themselves overwhelmed by demand, a challenge the government aims to confront.
The strategies are nothing short of ingenious. They involve creating dedicated bus routes from key stations to coveted tourist spots specifically catering to tourists. In another audacious move, authorities are mulling over the introduction of higher bus fares during peak hours to nudge travelers toward more serene, off-peak times.
The tourism ministry‘s clarion call emphasizes the urgency of steering tourism away from overcrowded epicenters like Tokyo and Kyoto. This endeavor extends and builds upon previous schemes to nurture tourism in 11 specially chosen “model destinations.” The focus is on showcasing Japan’s untouched natural and rustic allure, thus alleviating the burden on overly popular sites.
The Visitor Levy
Separately, the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture has unveiled an innovative tourist tax. Starting from October 1, visitors to the hallowed Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are levied a modest 100 yen (€0.60) fee.
Japan’s audacious battle against overtourism underlines the nuanced juggling act between resuscitating the tourism sector and preserving the nation’s cultural and environmental treasures.