Japan Welcomes Record-Breaking 3 Million Foreigners in March

Japan is experiencing an unprecedented surge in inbound tourism, with the country set to achieve its government-set goal of topping the pre-pandemic figure of 32 million annual foreign visitors by 2025.

According to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the January-March quarter saw a record 8.56 million visitors, putting the nation on course to surpass both visitor numbers and spending targets.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during a ministerial meeting on Wednesday, expressed optimism about the current pace, stating, “If we continue at this pace, we can expect the numbers of both inbound visitors and the amount spent to reach a record high in 2024, surpassing the target we had set for 2025.”

Record-Breaking Numbers and Spending

In March alone, Japan welcomed a record 3.08 million foreign visitors, surpassing the previous high of 2.99 million from July 2019.

This surge can be attributed to the Easter holiday, which attracted more travelers from Western countries such as Australia and the United States, as well as the allure of the cherry blossom season.

Foreign travelers also spent an impressive ¥1.8 trillion during the January-March period, translating to about ¥210,000 per person per stay—the highest figure on record. The weaker yen has encouraged visitors to stay longer in Japan, contributing to the increased spending.

2023 Figures Exceed Expectations

In 2023, approximately 25 million visitors came to Japan, spending a record ¥5.3 trillion, with a single tourist on average spending around ¥210,000 per stay.

These figures have already surpassed the targets set for 2025 in the government’s tourism strategy and goals, which were drafted in 2023. The original targets were ¥5 trillion total and ¥200,000 on average per stay.

Challenges and Future Goals

Despite the impressive numbers, some goals outlined in the government’s basic plan have yet to be reached.

For instance, the plan aimed to establish 100 sustainable tourist spots by 2025, but as of November, only 31 areas have set up such projects. The Japan Tourism Agency is offering support to various local governments and destination marketing organizations to encourage more participation.

Another challenge is the uneven distribution of tourists, with around 70% of all visitors in 2023 staying in the three metropolitan cities of Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, or areas surrounding the capital such as Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures. This figure was just over 60% prior to the pandemic.

Ichiro Takahashi, head of the Japan Tourism Agency, emphasized the potential of rural areas, stating, “I think the potential of rural areas is truly limitless—and we are yet to see this potential fully flourish. While there is a trend of uneven distribution in the three major metropolitan areas, we would like to especially strengthen our efforts to attract visitors to these rural regions.”

Outbound Tourism and Domestic Travel

Outbound tourism from Japan remains low compared to inbound arrivals, primarily due to the weak yen and high prices abroad.

In March, about 1.22 million people visited foreign countries from Japan, around 60% of the figure during the same period in 2019. In 2023, the figure was 9.62 million, less than half of the amount recorded in 2019.

However, domestic travel through 2023 almost rebounded to 2019 levels, with individuals spending 17.8% more on average per person. The total consumption amount was ¥21.9 trillion, approaching the government’s goal of ¥22 trillion set for 2025.

As Japan continues to break records in inbound tourism, the government and tourism industry are working to address challenges and capitalize on the country’s potential to attract visitors from around the world.

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