Foreign Visitors to Japan Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels for First Time

The number of foreign visitors to Japan in October 2023 reached 2.52 million, exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the first time since COVID-19 emerged. This represents a 0.8% increase compared to October 2019, before the pandemic impacted global tourism.

The rise is mainly attributed to two key factors that have made travel to Japan more affordable and accessible again: the weak Japanese yen and resumed airline services.

The yen has depreciated significantly against other major currencies like the US dollar. This makes visiting Japan more cost-effective for foreign tourists, boosting inbound numbers. At the same time, the resumption of airline routes to Japan that were suspended during the pandemic has also facilitated the return of overseas travelers.

From January through October 2023, Japan welcomed 19.89 million foreign visitors. This represents a recovery to 73.9% of pre-pandemic levels for the corresponding period in 2019. If this pace continues, Japan is projected to reach 25 million annual foreign visitors in 2024, crossing the pre-COVID threshold.

The top sources of visitors in October were South Korea, Taiwan, and China. South Korean visitors more than tripled versus October 2019, totaling over 630,000. Taiwan and China also showed increases, with the latter expected to further grow after Japan relaxed visa requirements for Chinese group tours in August 2023.

While Japan’s inbound tourism has rebounded well, outbound tourism remains depressed. Only 937,700 Japanese traveling overseas were recorded in October 2023, a 43.6% decrease from October 2019. This suggests the pandemic continues to impact travel sentiment and behavior among Japanese citizens.

Overall, the tourism data indicates that Japan has entered a solid recovery phase, with foreign visitor numbers exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the first time. This is a positive sign for Japan’s tourism industry as it continues to bounce back from COVID-19 impacts. However, challenges like sustaining growth from major markets like China remain.

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