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Prospects for 2020 and Relevant Issues
The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2014 was the largest number yet recorded at 13.41 million, and inbound tourism consumption (consumption in Japan by foreign visitors) was significantly increased at this time. There are concerns in Japan that domestic demand will decline as the country’s population decreases. It is therefore greatly hoped that inbound tourism consumption will offset the fall in domestic demand. Particularly for rural areas, where population decline is rapid, a method for gaining a share of inbound tourism consumption is critical to sustainable growth. However, as of 2014, foreign tourists mainly travel to major cities and rural areas do not benefit from their consumption. As the Tokyo Olympic Games will be held in 2020, the number of foreign tourists is expected to rise and lead to an increase in inbound tourism consumption. However, this is just a convenient checkpoint in a larger process. If Japan aims to become a true tourist destination, it needs to continuously attract foreign tourists without such major events. The issue thus becomes how to stimulate their demand for their next visit to Japan after the Olympics. It is necessary not only to raise the level of satisfaction of first-time visitors, but also to cause a larger number of foreign tourists, who tend to stay in only the major cities, to recognize rural areas as new or previously unnoticed Japanese attractions. If Japan can succeed in having many foreign tourists experience other ways to enjoy their visit in Japan besides just shopping, such as the various seasonal characteristics and traditional culture, inbound tourism consumption will steadily grow and become an established factor that will support the country’s economy. In rural areas, differentiation from the major cities is needed, which will require active efforts by local governments, including the development/improvement of strategies to demonstrate traditional Japanese culture and the richness of nature in the country.