Mount Fuji Effect Expected to Prompt Tourist Peak


TOKYO (Nikkei)–Japan’s tourism industry is hoping to parlay Mt. Fuji’s imminent status as a World Heritage site into a growth opportunity, and Asian tourists are seen playing a central role.

Mt. Fuji will likely be officially designated as a World Heritage site between June 21 and 23.

“Mt. Fuji will grow more popular with foreign tourists once it changes from being merely a symbol of Japan to a mountain for all of the world,” said Yoshiaki Togawa, president of the Yamagishi Ryokan, a century-old inn located at the foot of the iconic volcano.

The 3,776m-high mountain will officially be awarded World Heritage site status on Friday at the earliest by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which is currently meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Togawa, who also runs the Tominoko Hotel and two other hotels near Mt. Fuji, is preparing for an influx in foreign visitors to the area.

“I will promote our hotels and inns as choice accommodations through our English and Chinese websites,” he said.

Head For The Hills

Travel agencies are ramping up marketing efforts targeting foreign tourists. JTB Corp. on June 6 rolled out a four-day, 100km trekking tour from Mt. Takao in western Tokyo to Mt. Fuji, and a two-day tour that provides car transportation to the mountain’s fifth station, located high on the peak’s flanks. Prices start at 248,000 yen for the four-day tour and 94,000 yen for the two-day tour.

“Roughly 100,000 foreigners climb Mt. Fuji each year,” said an official at JTB. “The World Heritage site status will boost the number further.”

Willer Alliance Inc., a long-distance bus operator, is selling a Mt. Fuji trekking package targeting foreign tourists at prices starting from 15,900 yen. The tours will be conducted in July and August and include professional guides and English-speaking interpreters, who will coach tourists on mountaineering skills along the way.

East Japan Railway Co. (9020) will partner with Fuji Kyuko Co. (9010) to operate a new direct express service from JR Shinjuku Station to Fuji Kyuko’s Kawaguchiko Station this summer in the hope of attracting more rail travelers to Mt. Fuji.

Breaking New Ground

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been rising recently. The Japan National Tourism Organization reported that the number of visitors in April rose 18% on the year to 923,000, setting a new record for the first time in two years and nine months.

The government will from this summer exempt Thai and Malaysian tourists from visa requirements. It also plans to issue multiple-entry visas to Philippine and Vietnamese tourists so that they can visit Japan an unlimited number of times within a designated period.

The easing of visa requirements, along with the weakening of the Japanese currency, is expected to help bring in more foreign tourists, and Mt. Fuji’s new status will only add to that growth momentum.

— Translated from an article by Nikkei staff writers Kosuke Iwano and Hideki Shinohara

(The Nikkei Business Daily, June 18 edition)

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