Accepted paper:

Socio-spatial inequality between international tourist destinations in Japan

Authors:

Carolin Funck (Hiroshima University)

Paper short abstract:

Recent years have seen a rapid increase in international tourists visiting Japan. The economic, social and environmental impact they have differs throughout the country. This paper examines socio-spatial inequalities caused by the unequal distribution and sudden changes in international tourism.

Paper long abstract:

Recent years have seen a rapid increase in international tourists visiting Japan. However, the economic, social and environmental impact they have differs widely throughout the country. Depending on the country of origin, travel motivation and trip characteristics vary and lead to specialized clusters and routes. On the other hand, easy access to information on transport and location through smartphones and the spread of informal accommodation have brought international tourists to places so far not perceived as tourist destinations even by domestic tourists. As result, complicated patterns of concentration and dispersion are constantly evolving. This paper examines socio-spatial inequalities and impacts caused by the unequal distribution and sudden changes in international tourism. For this aim, we will first analyze the distribution of foreign tourists throughout Japan from official tourism statistics. Then, the paper draws on a series of case studies conducted to examine mature destinations as well as new emerging tourist spots. Questionnaires with tourists, interviews with local tourism stakeholders and analysis of administration publications and newspapers were the main research methods. It was found that, while the increasing number of international tourists contributes to diversification of mature destinations like Miyajima Island and Takayama City, it can also lead to problems of overcrowding. On the other hand, if peripheral areas like Okinoshima Island experience a sudden tourist boom, they face a lack in infrastructure and multilingual service personal. Also, positive economic effects are very limited. However, since foreign tourists often rely on public transportation, they contribute to maintaining ferries, trains and buses in remote areas. The analysis of case studies shows that international tourism both diminishes and increases socio-spatial inequalities and needs to be managed carefully to be sustainable.

panel S1_13
Socioeconomic change in non-metropolitan Japan