The Japan News/Asia News Network
Aerial view at dusk of night skiing in Niseko Village. Niseko is a popular destination for ski resorts in Japan (Shutterstock/cjmac)
To promote the renovation of ski resorts to attract more foreign skiers, the government will select between 10 to 15 skiing venues by a nationwide public offering and help revitalize them into resorts for longer stays. Skiing is becoming less popular in Japan.
The government plans to include related expenses in the fiscal 2020 budget and invite applications from the public as early as next spring. In the selected areas, the government envisages to promote the setting up of multilingual displays at the ski slopes and surrounding tourist spots, and to increase the size of lifts and gondolas.
To encourage long-term stays, the government will consider increasing the variety of eating and drinking outlets, as well as improving the transportation network between ski resorts and downtown areas. In addition, it will also promote events that can be enjoyed at night.
The Japan Tourism Agency and other entities will work with local governments and ski resort operating bodies to draw up the necessary plans from a planning stage. They will also offer financial assistance.
Japanese ski resorts are known for high quality powder snow and the number of foreign skiers is increasing rapidly. In 2013, the number was 300,000, but in 2017 it increased nearly three-fold to 860,000. By country and region, the number of skiers from China, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand topped the list.
About 190,000 people from China, the country with the highest number of visitors, came to Japan in 2017. The number of skiers in China is increasing rapidly due to the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
However, according to the consumption trend survey of foreigners visiting Japan conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency, visitors from China stay 9.7 days on average, about 5 days shorter than those from the United States and European countries.
The government aims to make the staying period of Chinese tourists longer, and to increase the number of tourists from Britain and Germany, which have a large population of skiers.
Behind the promotion aimed at foreign skiers is the continuing decline in the number of Japanese skiers. The number of Japanese skiers and snowboarders peaked at 18 million in 1998, dropping in 2017 to 6.2 million, just over 30 percent of the peak.
Many ski resorts in Japan provide information in Japanese only, and lifts and gondolas have aged. In particular, many ski lifts were built in the 1990s, when skiing was popular, and many of them have not been renewed.
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