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Hard-hit Kyoto is conflicted as Japan prepares to reopen to foreign tourists

abc.net.au -- Jul 04
Japan's opening up to mass tourism over the last decade brought an economic boost — a record 32 million tourists visited in 2019 and spent some $38 billion — but that also led to complaints of shoddy behaviour at sites such as Kyoto's temples.

Known for its narrow streets of tea houses and ryokan inns, Kyoto has been both badly hit and deeply relieved by the absence of foreign tourists, locals say.

With the yen at its weakest in more than two decades and a revival in global travel, Kyoto's hard-hit hotels and traditional sweet shops should have been bracing for a tourism surge.

Instead, only some visitors have trickled in as Japan is allowing a small number of tourists to enter the country after easing curbs in June.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose ruling party is expected to win an upper house election on July 10, is seen sticking to a gradual easing of measures after he won public support for keeping borders shut last year.

He would face a backlash if visitors sparked fresh COVID cases.

While the weak yen is a boon for tourists it is a headache for the government as it drives up fuel and electricity prices.

The number of hotels that shut down nationwide rose to a five-year high in 2021 and the local tourism industry in Kyoto has been badly hit, according to research firm Teikoku Databank.

"The damage is quite significant," said Teikoku analyst Keisuke Noda.

Demand has dried up for businesses like rental kimono shops, aimed mostly at foreigners. ...continue reading

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