In 2015, 19,737,000 foreigners visited Japan. The government’s initial target of 20 million for 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics, will be surpassed with ease this year. There are various reasons for Japan’s popularity as a tourist destination, but the following efforts and phenomena can be raised as the main factors.
- More cruise ship visits
- Expansion of flight routes
- Lower air fares due to reduced fuel surcharges
- Ongoing promotion of travel to Japan to date
- Perceived affordability becoming established due to the weak Yen
- Major relaxation of visa rules
- Development of the sales tax exemption system
But Japan has much more to offer in terms of the depth and excellence of its tourist resources, and the Japanese dining, traditional, and cultural experiences that no other country can offer.
Japan’s safety is another major factor. Countless tourists have been amazed when their lost wallets are returned with cash and credit cards intact. Is there any other country like that?
There is a notable expansion in visitors to Japan from China and ASEAN countries, as economic growth in those countries allow their people to enjoy trips to Japan. This trend has been boosted by more stable relations between Japan and China, deregulation measures such as visa exemptions, and expansion of the duty-free system.
Visitors from China account spend 57.1% of their total travel-related expenditure on shopping. “Binge shopping” by Chinese tourists has been featured by TV and other media in Japan. Shopping tours, particularly to buy products such as drugs, cosmetics, and electronics are becoming central to tourism.
Visitors to Japan from the US and Europe are more often looking for experiences and exploration than for shopping. More of them come to Japan for individual travel, rather than package tours. There is a trend for them to head out into regional areas for activities like cycling through rice-growing landscapes and trekking in the highlands.
Visitors to Japan recount their experiences through their own blogs, SNS, TripAdvisor, and the like. That initiates a virtuous cycle by spreading information about Japan as an attractive tourist destination around the world. Over 90% of all visitors to Japan would like to visit again, so the Japanese tourism market has the material needed to generate repeaters. The kindness of the Japanese people and their spirit of hospitality, in particular, give Japan an appeal that far surpasses other countries. When visitors form even a small contact with Japanese people and deepen that relationship, that is the moment when “Japan fans” are born.
Eating, shopping, staying at onsen spas, coming into contact with tourist attractions they have never seen or experienced before, and learning new things, are all parts of the “dynamism of tourism”. But when asked what was the biggest treat for them, many people answer that it was the “new observations and discoveries” they gained by getting to know local people and building relationships. Japan is one of those rare countries which gives foreign travelers experiences that touch their hearts.