Aug 24, 2016

    Japan to ramp up help at train stops to draw tourists


    IN A big boost for Japan's travel industry, the nation's Transport Ministry aims to make tourist information centres capable of assisting foreign tourists available

    at all Shinkansen

    (bullet train) stations

    by fiscal 2019.

    It is part of efforts to boost the number of

    visitors from overseas.

    The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry plans to provide subsidies to local governments and other entities when the tourist information centres they operate meet certain criteria, such as always having English-speaking guides.

    The ministry will

    request for funds in the government's budget for fiscal 2017 for more than 100 Shinkansen stations to open tourist information centres or upgrade their current ones by fiscal 2019.

    These centres are usually run by local governments

    or tourism associations.

    According to the ministry, there is no tourist information centre at 13 Shinkansen stations.

    Many existing centres also fail to fully meet the needs of foreign tourists,

    as English-speaking staff

    are not available all the time or Wi-Fi is not provided.

    The ministry aims to offer subsidies to cover part of the costs of setting up Wi-Fi that can be used

    free of charge and provide foreign-language training

    for those working at the centres.

    Under a strategy mapped out in March for promoting tourism, the government aims to double the annual number of foreign visitors to 40 million in 2020 -

    when Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics - up from nearly 20 million last year.

    One of the keys to achieving this target will be to encourage foreign visitors to spend time in the non-urban areas.

    Most of them currently visit the nation's three biggest urban areas in

    the Kanto, Chubu and

    Kinki regions.