Smartphones to help tourists shop

Smartphones to help tourists shop

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry will start creating a system from fiscal 2015 to allow foreign tourists visiting Japan to use smartphones to check the contents of foodstuffs and cosmetics in English, Chinese and other languages, it has been learned.

The new system - likely to be introduced in fiscal 2016 - aims at encouraging those tourists to spend more money shopping during their time in the country by offering consumers greater confidence when purchasing Japanese products, according to sources.

From April, a council set up by METI and 53 companies - including manufacturers Ajinomoto Co. Inc. and Kao Corp. as well as major distributor Ito-Yokado Co. - will assemble a database showing the materials and ingredients of individual products, and how to use them, in foreign languages.

As some foreign tourists need to pay special attention when selecting products due to allergies, religious beliefs or other reasons, a ministry official said, "Preparing a worry-free retail environment [for foreign tourists] will lead to more money being spent on shopping."

The total amount of spending by foreign tourists in 2014, including shopping and travel expenses during time spent in Japan, exceeded the ¥2 trillion (S$22.9 billion) mark, a jump of 40 per cent from the previous year.

Further increases in consumption by foreign tourists are expected, as cosmetics, foodstuffs and others were added in October to the list of products for which foreign tourists enjoy consumption tax exemptions.

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