The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in the fiscal year through March 2018 rose 19.9 percent from a year before to 29.77 million amid an increase in low-cost carrier flights connecting Japan to South Korea and other countries, government data showed Wednesday.
The figure for the calendar year through December 2018 is highly likely to top 30 million as the number of monthly visitors has continued to outpace that of the previous year, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.
The government is targeting 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
According to a different set of data released the same day by the agency, spending by foreign tourists to Japan in the January to March period this year grew 17.2 percent from a year earlier to 1.13 trillion yen ($10.5 billion), buoyed by shopping by Chinese and South Korean travelers, whose numbers showed double-digit growth during the period.
Ski resorts attracted tourists from Australia while museums and theaters were popular among travelers from Europe, contributing to the rise in overall spending, the agency said.
“We are seeing a strong showing, but we also have to accelerate the implementation various measures,” the agency’s chief Akihiko Tamura said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, average spending per visitor only rose 0.6 percent to 148,891 yen, reflecting the increase in South Koreans who appear to have had a relatively tight hold on their purse strings with each spending 69,262 yen on average.
In the three-month period, Chinese travelers spent the most, or a total of 439.1 billion yen, followed by Taiwanese at 149.5 billion, South Koreans at 147.6 billion yen and those from Hong Kong at 81.9 billion yen.
In March alone, the number of foreign visitors to Japan was estimated at 2,607,900, up 18.2 percent from a year earlier and a record high for the month.
In 2017, the number of foreign visitors totaled 28.69 million, according to the agency.