Published on : Thursday, April 18, 2019
In Kyoto, the traditional retail market is overrun by foreign tourists, many of them eating skewered shrimp and other local delicacies as they stroll, making it difficult for daily shoppers to carry on their business. Posters saying “No Eating While Walking” can be found everywhere, but they are largely ignored.
While the increased tourism has brought thriving business, it has been the reverse for Nishiki Daimaru, a 60-year-old fish outlet that is one of more than 100 shops in the market. Its owner said that 80% of his customers are now foreigners, and thus, sales have declined for the past three to four years. Katsumi Utsu, the chief director of the market, said that Nishiki is now a “crush of spectators rather than a lively scene of local shoppers.”
In 2018, foreign visitor arrivals jumped 8.7% to 31.19 million from a year earlier. With Japan looking forward to two major sporting events — the Rugby World Cup from September to November and the Tokyo Summer Olympics next year — the numbers are expected to increase further. Goals set by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016 anticipate foreign tourist arrivals at 40 million in 2020, and 60 million in 2030.
Abe is also working to encourage domestic tourism, and said that this year’s annual Golden Week holiday will run from April 27 to May 6.
The surge in foreign visitors to Japan reflects a gradual simplification of travel visa requirements since 2013 for countries including Thailand, the Philippines and China; growth in the number of budget airlines in Asia, and drop in the Yen, and all of these have made Japan one of the most popular destinations in the region.
As per the UNWTO, Japan was the 12th-most visited country on the planet in 2017. The country also recorded the highest growth in tourist arrivals, surpassing Vietnam, Chile and Thailand.