Tokyo, Oct 1 (EFE).- The emblematic island of Miyajima, in western Japan, began charging its visitors Sunday to curb overtourism, an initiative that expected to be adopted in other islands of the country.
The city of Hatsukaichi, of which the island is a part, began collecting a tax of JPY100 (about $0.67) per person as an entrance fee, added to the ferry fee to get there, and from which residents, workers on the island and students will be excluded.
The island known as Miyajima is home to the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and where the iconic vermilion red “torii” gate is located in the middle of the sea that millions of visitors seek to photograph.
The island, which has a population of about 1,400 people, attracted a record 4.65 million visitors in 2019 before Japan closed its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The standard local government subsidy is not linked to the number of visitors, so authorities consider it necessary to ensure an additional source of income to manage increasing expenditure on tourism management and promote sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism.
The city expects the new tax to generate about JPY140 million until the end of March 2024, when the current Japanese fiscal year closes, which they hope to allocate to the maintenance of parks and public facilities such as toilets.
Other Japanese islands that attract a large number of tourists are considering implementing similar levies, including Taketomi Island, in Okinawa Prefecture, which administers Iriomote Island, a World Heritage Site; or the island of Sado, in the prefecture of Niigata, with aspirations also to become universal heritage.
The debate about overtourism has also reached the central government and since September officials from several public entities, including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and the Ministry of Economy, Commerce and Industry, have met other parties involved to analyze the matter.
Among the measures proposed are the obligation to hire a guide to visit certain areas, establish fare changes in transportation based on traffic, create a shared taxi system for tourists or promote discount coupons to guide visitors to areas less crowded.
After several years paralyzed by Japan’s border closure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, international tourism is recovering in the archipelago, which received 2.3 million visitors from outside the country in July, about 70 percent of levels prior to the health crisis.
The return of tourists is an injection for Japanese finances, especially given the current weakness of the yen against other currencies, which makes the country a more attractive destination, but the influx of visitors causes inconveniences for local residents, such as transportation crowds, crowds or incidents of trespassing on private property, issues that the tourist city of Kyoto has complained about. EFE