Hiroshima Japan introduces visitor tax for sustainable tourism

Hiroshima Japan introduces visitor tax for sustainable tourism
The western Japanese city of Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, home to the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine, one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, has introduced a new tax on visitors to its sightseeing island, leading the nation’s initiative to preserve legacies and create sustainable tourism communities.

While several major tourist cities such as the ancient capital of Kyoto have already levied a hotel tax, Hatsukaichi became Japan’s first municipality to introduce a broader local tax exclusively imposed upon visitors to a sightseeing area, city officials said.

On October 1, Hatsukaichi started collecting 100 yen ($0.68: $1=147.9 yen) from each tourist to Miyajima Island in the city’s southern region where the shrine is located.

The tax is charged as a fee included in the boarding ticket for ferries to the island.

Visitors can also choose an annual tax of 500 yen that allows them to make multiple visits.

Responsibility for preservation

“We are responsible for preserving nature, history, and culture and passing them on to the next generations,” said Shunji Mukai, an official of the city’s planning and coordination division for Miyajima.

The center of sightseeing on the island is the seaside shrine, which was founded in 593. The vermilion-lacquered compound is widely known for its iconic “floating” torii gate and was designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1996.

Itsukushima, just 16 kilometers (10 miles) southwest of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, drew global attention in May when the Group of Seven leaders, including US President Joe Biden, visited the shrine during the G7 Hiroshima Summit 2023.
“We feel the need to create a hospitable environment for tourists while securing the livelihood of islanders,” Mukai said, adding that stable financial resources are “essential” to deal with these challenges.
“We hope that tourists will become stakeholders who join us to protect Miyajima by sharing responsibilities,” he said.
The city plans to spend the new tax money on maintaining tourism information desks and restrooms, preserving cultural assets and historical architecture, reducing the impact on the natural environment, and promoting ecotourism.
According to a survey conducted by the city three years ago, some 93 percent of tourists to Miyajima supported introducing the tax.

“Without stable financial resources, we would face difficulties in surviving as a tourist destination,” Mukai said, expressing hope that the new tax will help the city offer “sustainable tourism.”

Hiroshima Japan introduces visitor tax for sustainable tourism

Over-tourism after pandemic
The tax is also aimed at dealing with over-tourism as the city sees the number of tourists surge after the new coronavirus was settling down globally and the central government lifted restrictions.
The number of visitors to the island fell to a low of 1.88 million in 2021 due to the pandemic but recovered to 2.83 million last year and is expected to top four million this year.

Hatsukaichi also hopes to act as an example for other tourism-dependent towns considering introducing similar taxes.

“We have heard that more and more local municipalities are facing the need to take measures against over-tourism,” Mukai said.
“We hope that our implementation of the visitor tax can be of some help to them,” he said. “The precious nature and history that we have throughout the country is an asset to Japan.”

How to pay for Miyajima Visitor Tax

How to pay for Miyajima Visitor Tax

The Miyajima Visitor Tax takes effect on 1 October 2023. 

The new visitor tax will be used to develop a sustainable tourism community. The projects include but not limited to:

        * Maintaining tourism information desks and restrooms, managing the Mt. Misen Observatory, mountain climbing trails, etc.

        * Preserving cultural assets and historical architecture, managing the History and Folklore Museum, etc.

        * Promoting ecotourism, installing water servers, etc.

Miyajima Visitor Tax costs 100 yen per person per visit. You can also select a tax rate of 500 yen per person annually if you plan to visit multiple times during the year.

Preschool children (children who have not yet entered elementary school) are exempted from the Miyajima Visitor Tax.

When boarding a ferry (boat) that goes to Miyajima, please pay the tax to the boat company together with your boarding fee.

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