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Japan tourism surges to record 24m arrivals

Tourists crowds on Nakamise shopping street, leading to Asakusa Sensoji-ji Temple
Tourists crowds on Nakamise shopping street, leading to Asakusa Sensoji-ji Temple

Japan’s tourism industry continued to boom in 2016, as a sharp rise in Asian arrivals took the country’s full-year visitor total over the 20 million mark for the first time in history.

Japan’s Tourism Minister, Keiichi Ishii, revealed this week that his country welcomed a record 24.03m international arrivals last year, up 22% compared to 2015. This marks the fifth consecutive record-breaking year for Japan’s tourism industry, and means that arrivals have now more than doubled since 2013.

At a press conference to announce the results, reported by Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Ichii said the record total was the “result of our unprecedented, quick and national-level measures”.

It is also the result the unprecedented Chinese outbound tourism boom, which is having a major impact on nearby destinations such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The full breakdown of the Japanese arrival figures will not be released until 17 January, but in the first 11 months of the year Chinese nationals accounted for 27% of total arrivals to Japan. For the full-year, the total is expected to be approximately 6.5m visitors.

But other Asian source markets are also growing strongly. Indeed, in the year to November 2016 just four markets – China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong – accounted for almost three quarters of all visitors to Japan. The US was the largest long-haul source market, and the only other country to contribute more than one million visitors to Japan during the 11-month period.

Last year, the Japanese government hiked the country’s tourism targets to reflect the unexpectedly impressive growth. Japan now expects to welcome 30m international visitors by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics, and 40m visitors by 2030.

The growth of visitor arrivals to Japan

2012:    8.36 million (+34.4%)
2013:    10.36 million (+24.0%)
2014:    13.41 million (+29.4%)
2015:    19.74 million (+47.1%)
2016:    24.03 million (+21.7%)

Source: Japan National Tourism Organization

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