TOKYO: Retailers in Japan are hoping that an influx of Chinese tourists will drive up their sales levels as domestic demand continues to decline.
The Japanese government's recent relaxation of rules limiting how many Chinese citizens can apply for visas to enter the country is the primary cause of this optimism.
Overall, it is estimated that this move could open up the possibility of the members of an additional 16 million Chinese households, all of which will be comparatively wealthy, taking holidays in Japan.
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the average Chinese shopper spends around ¥116,568 (€1,073; $1,300, £877) in stores while on vacation.
This compares with a total of less than half that amount among their Taiwanese counterparts, and is more than four times the figure posted by Americans.
Such a trend would be welcome news to struggling department stores, where sales have contracted for 27 months in a row, the Japan Department Store Association has reported.
In contrast, spending by foreign visitors – led by the Chinese – has climbed in every month but one since March 2009.
High-end stores are thus now recruiting Mandarin-speaking staff and investing heavily in goods perceived to be attractive to Chinese shoppers.
Miki Sato, of the Japan Travel Bureau, said these products ranged from rice cookers and digital cameras to make-up and luxury offerings like Louis Vuitton handbags.
Electronics goods from manufacturers headquartered in Japan, like Sony and Panasonic, also tend to be well-regarded by this audience.
The Japan Tourism Agency is thus aiming to more than triple the number of Chinese holiday-makers to 3.9 million in 2013 from 1.01 million last year.
South Korea is the single biggest source of tourists to the country at present, with some 1.59 million of its residents having visited in 2009.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff