Weak yen a chance to lure tourists, Tokyo Governor says

JAPAN should take advantage of its plunging currency to encourage more foreign tourists, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (picture) told Bloomberg News in an interview late on Thursday local time, adding she would like to open the country’s doors “tomorrow.”

The yen has slumped to its lowest levels in almost a quarter of a century in recent days, prompting a Ministry of Finance official to express concern. The flagging currency amplifies the effect of already surging import prices, but Koike emphasized the potential upside.

“Tourism is a big industry in Tokyo, as well as in all Japan, so this is the time to greet more foreign tourists by using this advantage of the depreciation of the yen,” she said.

Despite Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s pledge earlier in the year to make it as easy to visit Japan as other Group of Seven nations, the government has retained relatively strict Covid border measures, hurting travel-related businesses. Japan had about 246,000 foreign visitors last year, a far cry from the record 31.9 million in 2019.

While Japan this week raised the cap on entry to 50,000 people a day and abolished testing requirements, visitors are still required to obtain visas and tourists must visit as part of a group tour. Asked when Japan’s borders would open fully to visitors, Koike said it would be “soon.”

“The national border is under the management of central government,” she said. “As governor of Tokyo, that would be tomorrow.”

Koike made the remarks at the Tokyo launch of Bloomberg New Voices, a global initiative to increase the visibility of women and other underrepresented executives in business and finance across media platforms. – BLOOMBERG