Photo/Illutration A ski slope in Niseko, Hokkaido (Toshiki Horigome)

NISEKO, Hokkaido--The government of Niseko, home to an internationally renowned ski resort area, plans to impose a 2-percent fixed-rate lodging tax on guests staying at accommodation facilities in the town.

The municipality intends to use the revenues to promote tourism, create a transportation network and set up a fund to financially support lodging operators in the event of another health crisis.

The town office will listen to the opinions of business operators and residents before it decides when to introduce the lodging tax.

Many municipalities around the nation have discontinued discussions about imposing a lodging tax due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Niseko officials concluded they could expect 200 million yen ($1.5 million) in extra tax revenue each year under the fixed-rate system in light of the town’s many luxury facilities offering rooms for several hundred thousand yen per night.

A local government can establish a lodging tax after it approves an ordinance that specifies the purpose and rate of the levy, and obtains consent from the internal affairs minister.

If realized, Niseko will be the 10th local government in Japan to introduce a lodging tax, and the second using a fixed rate.

Kutchan, another town located in the Niseko region, was the first to introduce a fixed-rate levy, in November 2019. The town is the only municipality in Hokkaido that has introduced the lodging tax.

The eight other local governments have adopted a fixed-amount system, ranging from several hundred yen to 1,000 yen, depending on the accommodation charge.

Niseko initially considered a fixed-amount tax.

“We will keep in step with Kutchan, which is located in the same Niseko area,” Niseko Mayor Kenya Katayama said. “We will decide how to spend the funds after listening to business operators.”

The Kutchan town office initially expected to bring in about 300 million yen in tax revenues a year. It collected about 176 million yen in the tax’s first fiscal year, which began in April 2019.

But tax revenues dwindled in the following years because of the pandemic: about 52 million yen in fiscal 2020 and about 67 million yen in fiscal 2021.

Town officials expect an increase in revenues this fiscal year, thanks to the rebound of foreign tourists.

Eight municipalities in Japan, including the city governments of Kyoto and Kanazawa, as well as the Tokyo metropolitan government and the two prefectural governments of Osaka and Fukuoka, have introduced lodging taxes.

The Nagasaki city government plans to impose its levy from April.

The Hokkaido government, as well as the municipal governments of Sapporo, Otaru and Shimukappu, are considering lodging taxes.

Although the Otaru city government had discontinued discussions on the issue, it began considering a fixed-amount tax in response to recommendations by an expert panel in February.

Shimukappu village, home to the Tomamu ski resort, plans to complete its lodging tax system by the end of the next fiscal year.