10:32 31 October 2016
TOKYO, Oct. 31, Kyodo
The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan this year has already surpassed last year’s record 19.74 million, topping 20 million in only 10 months, the Japan Tourism Agency said Monday.
The number of visitors in the first nine months of this year was up 24.1 percent from the same period the previous year to 17.98 million and the figure is estimated to have topped the 20 million line as of Sunday, the agency said.
The rate of increase for the first nine months, however, was half the 47 percent increase logged for the whole of last year, with the yen’s appreciation and the Chinese economy’s slowdown apparently eating into growth.
Major quakes in Kumamoto Prefecture and its vicinity in April caused a temporary drop in visitors from South Korea.
Japan aims to increase the number of foreign visitors to 40 million in 2020, the year Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic games.
The agency attributed this year’s rise generally to increased port calls by cruise ships and airlines launching new routes. Continuous tourism promotion campaigns and eased visa restrictions led to gains particularly in visitors from Southeast Asian countries, it said.
The number of monthly visitors topped 2 million for the first time on record in March when many visited for the cherry blossom season. The record was then rewritten in July with nearly 2.3 million visitors.
The phenomenon of buying sprees by shoppers from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong has subsided, with spending by foreign visitors decreasing year on year in the July-September quarter for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2011. The figure was down 2.9 percent to 971.7 billion yen ($9.3 billion).