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ECONOMY

Inbound visitors from North America, Europe, Australia up 18% in 2016

  • January 18, 2016
  • , Nikkei , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

The government published the 2016 inbound visitor figures on the 17th. Visitors from China, South Korea, and other parts of East Asia marked a 23% increase over 2015, while there was an 18% increase in visitors from North America, Europe, and Australia due to the growing recognition of Japan as a good tourist destination. Individual spending, however, saw a decline of 10%. The ability to develop tourist destinations that can accommodate multiple-day visits by North American, European and Australian visitors – a cohort with high potential for an increase in spending – is the determining factor for further growth in in-bound visitors.

 

The number of incoming travelers rose 21.8%, exceeding 24.03 million. By country/region, travelers from China were the largest group, accounting for 63.7 million, followed by 50.9 million Koreans and 41.6 million Taiwanese. More than 80% of visitors hailed from Asia, including India. Meanwhile, American visitors rose by 20% from the previous year to 1.24 million and Australian visitors grew by 18% to 44,000. Spanish visitors also increased by19% thanks to the start of the first direct flight from Spain in 18 years.

 

The Tourism Agency’s Akihiko Tamura said during a press conference on the 17th: “More travelers see Japan as a destination.” The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism sees the recent surge of tourists to Hiroshima as a reflection of growing interest in historical and cultural destinations, since the city is the site of the Peace Memorial and Miyajima Island.

 

The private sector is showing great interest in travelers from the West. “I knew the so-called bakugai [shopping sprees by Chinese tourists] would not last. I want to ensure we grow our clientele from the West,” says Takashi Goto, President of Seibu Holdings. The Prince Park Tower Tokyo (Minato Ward, Tokyo) started a service targeting Western travelers at its newly renovated Premium Class Floor that caters to long-term guests.

 

Tamura explained the growing trend for services to “shift their target audience from Asia to Europe, North America, and Australia.” Service providers understand that they must cater to a broader consumer base to achieve the government’s target of 40 million inbound visitors by 2020.

 

Western visitors are important for the economic effect. Although overall tourist spending for 2016 grew by 7.8% reaching a record of 3,747.6 billion, per capita spending decreased by 11.5%. Reaching the government’s target of 8 trillion by 2020 will hinge on not only the number of visitors but also raising per capita spending. Nationwide efforts need to be made to encourage not only shopping, which is vulnerable to currency fluctuations, but also spending on accommodations, meals, and experiences across the board.

 

The further visitors travel to get to their destination, the longer they tend to stay, resulting in greater expenditures. Excluding the Chinese, who spend 232,000 yen – the most among all foreign travelers – the Australians and Spaniards spend more than the average of 156,000 yen,  247,000 yen and 224,000 yen, respectively.

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