TOKYO — The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in the fiscal year ended last month hit 31.62 million, up 6.2 percent from the previous year, government data showed Wednesday.
Visitors from Asian neighbors helped lift the number but growth slowed from a 19.9 percent rise in the previous fiscal year due to a number of natural disasters, including earthquakes and torrential rains that hit the country last summer, an official at the Japan Tourism Agency said.
The figure for March alone was estimated at 2.76 million, up 5.8 percent from the year before, marking a record high for the month, according to the agency.
The government has set a target of attracting 40 million foreign visitors annually by next year, when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. To meet the goal, the government has eased visa rules, expanded airports for budget airlines and promoted private lodging services to address an accommodation shortage for tourists.
The agency also said spending by foreign tourists in the January to March period rose 0.5 percent from the previous year to 1.12 trillion yen ($10 billion), still far from the government target of 8 trillion yen in 2020.
Chinese travelers spent the most at 402.1 billion yen, followed by Taiwanese at 150.1 billion yen, South Koreans at 147.9 billion yen, and those from Hong Kong at 80.7 billion yen.
Spending per visitor in the three-month period fell 5.9 percent to 143,206 yen, the data showed. By country, Australians ranked first in average spending per visitor at 234,972 yen, followed by Chinese at 207,235 yen and Vietnamese at 194,310 yen.
Hiroshi Tabata, commissioner of the agency, said at a press conference that the tepid spending could be attributed to slowing growth in the number of foreign visitors.
Japan saw a drop in the number of tourists from South Korea in particular after the natural disasters, the agency official said.
“It’s important for us to find new potential tourists, promote visits by them to rural areas and get them to stay longer in Japan. We’re planning more efforts with all that in mind,” Tabata said.