Japan is set to approve a plan to sell duty-free goods in vending machines to address a manpower shortage to process such sales especially in areas other than big cities, government sources said Monday.
Duty-free items such as cosmetics, character goods and watches will be sold in vending machines providing a tourist's identification can be verified through facial recognition and passport data, the sources said.
With the rising number of foreign visitors to Japan, the government believes resolving the issue of manpower will stimulate tourist consumption.
The ruling parties are expected to include the plan in the outline of their fiscal 2020 tax reform proposals. The vending machine service may start from fiscal 2021 by which time the government hopes to complete the digitization of duty-free sales procedures, they said.
The envisioned vending machines must be connected to the internet and able to automatically send records of each sale to the country's customs clearance system. They will be installed in airports, train stations and shopping malls where tourists congregate.
At present, duty-free shops need their staff to verify the identification of customers from overseas.
As the number of foreign tourists has increased, the number of duty-free shops across the country has more than quintupled in five years to some 52,000 in October, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. However, the number of employees has not risen at the same rate.