The Japanese Tourism Agency has announced plans to enable tourists to utilise contactless and cashless payments, as part of an incentive to attract more foreigners into the country. 

Citing sources from the agency, the motive behind this initiative is to invite inbound tourists to spend more money, as cashless payment systems become increasingly popular in China and other surrounding countries.

Elsewhere, the Niseko resort region in Hokkaido and other establishments in popular tourist destinations have taken measures to introduce their own system of cashless payments, surpassing the project launched by the government.

The project being launched by the agency stipulates that the government will fund part of the expenses involved with introducing a cashless system in tourist areas, when directed by a local government or local shopping organisation, as of the fiscal year 2019.

The agency will also oversee the installation of free wireless internet access points, along with multilingual tourist guide boards. Both of these implementations will be subsidized by the international tourist tax, better known as the departure tax, which was set into motion earlier this month.

According to data from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, cashless payments in Japan totalled to 18.4% of all transactions in 2015. This figure is far behind the 89.1% recorded in South Korea, the 60% in China and the 45% in the United States, highlighting the fact that the cashless trend has made little progress in gaining popularity in the Pacific-island state.  Reports reveal that it is not uncommon for tourists to remain puzzled when cards are not accepted at a till point. 

In 2015, Japan experienced an influx of shopping sprees by the Chinese population – better known as bakugai – when home appliances and daily needs were becoming increasingly popular. Back then, consumption per inbound visitor stood at 176,000 yen. Since then however, the figure has been drastically declining, standing at only 153,000 in 2018. 

According to one agency official: “It is vital to develop a payment environment that doesn’t frustrate people.”

Niseko ski resort, a popular tourist destination for the winter sport-enthusiasts, has taken matters into its own hands by implementing a cashless payment system across the whole area. 

In November, a trial project was initiated in resort areas run by Tokyu Fudosan Holdings Corp. group companies, along with other resorts in the Niseko region. The launch involved a cashless payment service nicknamed ‘Niseko Pay’, and although it is currently only on offer to locals, the company is looking to expand this service to foreign tourists as of next season. 

Elsewhere, West Japan Railway Co., Hankyu Corp., and other railway operators in the Kansai