The number of foreign visitors to Japan marked a monthly record of 2.68 million in July, due to the summer vacation season and an increase in low-cost carrier flights used from South Korea and elsewhere, the Japan Tourism Agency said Wednesday.
An estimated 2,681,500 travelers came to Japan from overseas, up 16.8 percent from a year earlier and surpassing the previous single-month record of 2,578,970 logged in April this year.
The number of foreign visitors from January through July this year increased 17.3 percent from the same period last year to 16,438,800, showing a faster pace of increase than in 2016. The number of visitors totaled 24,039,700 in all of 2016.
The agency attributed the uptick to growing travel demand during the summer vacation and an increase in flights by low-cost carriers and other airlines that have taken tourists to areas such as Japan’s western Kansai region and northernmost main island of Hokkaido.
“We are seeing steady progress,” Akihiko Tamura, the head of the agency, said at a press conference, referring to the government goal of attracting an annual 40 million foreign visitors in 2020, when Japan will host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
But Tamura said there is room for improvement in efforts to lure foreigners to local areas so that they will repeatedly visit Japan. He also said he will step up tourism promotion measures for the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan, where the pace of increase in the number of visitors is below average.
By country and region, China accounted for the largest number of visitors at 780,800, up 6.8 percent from a year before, followed by South Korea at 644,000, up 44.1 percent. Visitors from Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam also increased, according to the agency.
The number of foreign visitors to Japan has continued to grow after falling to 6.22 million in 2011, when Tohoku was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami and a nuclear power plant disaster.
More than 70 percent of the overall travelers come from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and the Japanese government wants to attract more visitors from the United States and countries in Europe.