Popular Japanese destinations are employing or considering taxes on tourists to counter over-tourism and secure funds for the management of travellers and preservation of nature, culture and history.
Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, introduced a tourist tax on October 1 for each tourist to Miyajima, the island home to Itsukushima Shrine and its renowned giant torii gate that appears to float in the sea at high tide. The 30.39km2 island attracted a record 4.65 million tourists in 2019, leading to concerns about the protection of the shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the isle, which is regarded as one of the three most scenic spots in the country.
The Miyajima Visit Tax will be 100 yen (US$0.67) per visit but residents, commuters and students are exempt. Local officials expect the new tax to generate 140 million yen within its first fiscal year of implementation (by end-March 2024), which will be used to maintain the island, including parks and toilets, and provide free Wi-Fi.
Meanwhile, the town of Taketomi, which encompasses nine inhabited islands in the Okinawa archipelago including World Natural Heritage Site Iriomote island, will submit a draft plan for a similar visitor tax in March 2024.
The income would be used to ease the strain on local infrastructure and reduce environmental damage caused by tourists, who numbered more than one million annually pre-pandemic, according to a town staffer.
Officials in nearby island chain Amami, another World Natural Heritage Site, are also considering imposing taxes or asking for donations from visitors to help protect the endemic species and natural environment that make it one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
A growing number of municipalities are also considering joining Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Kutchan (a ski resort town in Hokkaido) and other popular destinations in adopting a lodging tax to support local tourism services.