Record High Spending by Foreign Visitors to Japan: Take Advantage of Opportunity to Spread Country’s Appeal to World

The number of foreign visitors to Japan is recovering and their spending is significantly increasing. This is an opportunity for Japan to spread its diverse appeal to the world. It is hoped that the central and local governments will endeavor to make use of tourist resources.

The Japan Tourism Agency announced that the amount spent by foreigners visiting Japan in 2023 hit a record high of ¥5.2923 trillion, up 9.9% from 2019, the year before the outbreak of COVID-19. The central government’s ¥5 trillion target set in March 2023 was surpassed quickly.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2023 was 25.06 million, recovering to about 80% of the 2019 figure. In addition, the weaker yen, inflation and an increase in accommodation spending resulting from longer stays, among other factors, pushed the amount of spending up.

The increase in spending by foreign visitors is a tailwind for the Japanese economy. It is hoped that this will steadily lead to the revival of the tourist industry and the eating and drinking industry, which were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking at the amount of spending by country and region of visitors to Japan, Taiwan accounted for the largest amount at ¥778.6 billion, followed by China and South Korea.

In terms of the number of visitors to Japan, South Korea had the largest amount, with Taiwan coming in second. The number of visitors from China, which was the largest before the pandemic, ranked third with less than 30% of the 2019 figure.

This is believed to be a result of China’s slowness in lifting the ban on group travel to Japan and the real estate recession in China, among other reasons.

The number of visitors from the United States and Canada, among other countries, greatly increased. Visitors from Western nations tend to spend much money and have long stays in Japan and are interested in traditional Japanese culture, temples and shrines, among other things.

At the same time, overtourism has resurfaced in some tourist destinations, such as Kyoto City and Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. There is also a serious labor shortage in the tourist industry, including hotels and ryokan Japanese-style inns.

To solve such problems, it is necessary to spread out visitors to various places in Japan. To this end, it is important to provide opportunities for “koto shohi,” programs focusing on hands-on activities, in which visitors experience a variety of things on their trip. The programs are in high demand among foreign visitors.

For example, Dewa Sanzan (the three mountains of Dewa) in Yamagata Prefecture is a sacred site for mountain asceticism, and ascetic training programs for foreign visitors are gaining popularity. Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, where visitors can enjoy cooking using local ingredients, is also appealing to those visiting Japan.

The cycling course on Setouchi Shimanami Kaido, a motorway that crosses the Seto Inland Sea connecting Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, and Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, has reportedly received high praise for its spectacular views.

The good quality of Japanese cleanliness and safety, along with newer culture, such as anime, are also drawing in foreign visitors.

If Japan can meet the needs of visitors who want to learn about Japanese culture and enjoy its nature, it will not only increase their spending but also have the effect of spreading the appeal of Japan throughout the world. This should also contribute to the enhancement of Japan’s ability to communicate with the rest of the international community and to increase a sense of trust in Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 9, 2024)