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Friday, June 19, 2015

Japan's Tourism Boom Lifts Economy and Causes Headaches

Above, the Wako department store in Ginza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The current boom in Japan tourism has greatly boosted the Japanese economy. But the influx in foreigners have caused some problems that the Japanese government needs to address.

For example, much of the influx originates from China. There are not enough workers in the retail sector who can speak Chinese. There's also scarce numbers of ATMs that will accept foreign debit or credit cards. And, investments in new restaurants and hotels have lagged and not kept up with the growth of foreign tourists.

The Minneapolis StarTribune has an article on the boom and the headaches it brings.

It starts off with:
TOKYO — From the slopes of Mount Fuji to the temple streets of Kyoto, tourists are cramming Japan's prime sightseeing spots, puzzling their way through Tokyo subways, and splashing out cash on cosmetics, sushi and high-tech toilet seats. 
The cheap yen, easier visas and other initiatives are luring foreign travelers eager to stretch their budgets and see some UNESCO World Heritage sites, bringing in welcome cash as well as myriad complications. 
Tourism was among many Japanese industries that limped through more than 20 years of sluggish economic growth as locals tightened their belts and most foreigners stayed away, scared off by tales of $200 melons and other scandalous prices. 
But Japan has become a hot destination as the exchange rate weakened from about 80 yen to the U.S. dollar in late 2012 to its current level of about 123 yen. Foreign visitors exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2013 and rose to 13.4 million last year. The aim is to have 20 million by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games.
To read more, go here.

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