Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that he will order the relevant ministries to come up with a new action plan to increase the number of tourists to Japan.
Abe made his comments to reporters after a visit to Koyasan (Mt Koya) in Wakayama Prefecture, Fuji TV reported. Known as the headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Buddhism, Koyasan has become a popular tourist spot in recent years.
Abe said he wants to make tourism one of the main engines driving Japan's economic growth. He said one of the keys to doing this is encouraging tourists to visit places outside the main cities in Japan, such as Koyasan.
He said Japan needs more duty free shops in regional areas and also called for faster immigration and customs procedures.
The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2014 was 13,410,000, up 29.4% over 2013. The highest number came from Taiwan (up 28% to 2,829,800), followed by South Korea with 2,755,300 (up 12.2%) and China -- which had the biggest jump at 83.3% -- with 2,409,200 visitors.
Tourism officials attribute the hike in tourism numbers to the weak yen, more international flights in and out of Haneda Airport, as well as the easing of visa regulations for countries in Southeast Asia.
Agency officials also noted that from Oct 1, the list of duty-free products was expanded leading to a increase in sales at department and other stores of over 2.4 times compared to last last year.
The Japan Tourism Agency predicts that numbers of foreign tourists will continue to climb this year as well, likely exceeding 15 million.
Officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport say that by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the total number of foreign visitors will finally reach and or exceed 20 million.© japan Today