Japan’s tourism industry is experiencing a major upswing, as the fall of the yen makes the country an increasingly affordable destination.
International tourist arrivals to Japan have doubled in the last decade, to more than 10 million in 2013 – the majority of them from other parts of Asia.
And speaking at this week’s Assembly of Presidents in Tokyo, AAPA director-general Andrew Herdman said this shift was being noticed in the aviation sector.
“Clearly Japan has now become a very successful and large inbound tourism market. This is another example of how intra-Asian traffic is driving fundamental changes in travel patterns,” Herdman said.
And the trend is expected to continue, as the Japanese government plans to double inbound tourism again, to 20m arrivals by 2020 – the year Japan will host the Olympics Games.
Several factors explain this change, including relaxation of visa rules. But the depreciation of the yen is a major factor, making Japan much more affordable, especially for Asia’s increasingly affluent population.
“It definitely boosts the number of tourists to Japan so it’s quite positive to us,” an official with Japan’s biggest airline ANA told Travel Daily.
ANA’s president & CEO, Osamu Shinobe, said his carrier would take advantage of this. Having seen “strong demand” this year, Shinobe said ANA would now “continue our Asia expansion” in 2014.
Another factor is the open skies policy with Taiwan, which is driving increased air traffic and a slew of new low-cost routes between the countries. Local officials in Japan are also keen to market their destinations to Taiwanese visitors.
Samuel Perng-liang Lin, president of Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, told Travel Daily that the “very aggressive” promotion of Japanese destinations is partially driving his airport’s growth.
“We are continuing to explore the possibility of [connections to] more and more cities,” he said.
There are some factors that could hinder growth, however. More slots are needed at Tokyo’s two airports, especially Haneda, to cope with the influx of flights and visitors.
“Without the capability to increase Haneda’s hourly capacity from 80 to 90 movements, the government’s objective to double inbound tourism to 20 million arrivals by 2020 simply cannot be reached,” IATA’s director general Tony Tyler told delegates in Tokyo.
But with some of the world’s fastest-growing tourism markets on its doorstep, a government that is embracing inbound tourism and the Olympics in the pipeline, the Land of the Rising Sun is likely to see rising visitor numbers for many years to come.
Michael Mackey reports for Travel Daily Asia from the AAPA Assembly of Presidents in Tokyo