Japan is continuing to make enormous progress in its rebound from the pandemic, but a full recovery will remain elusive without more visitors from China.
Japan ended 2023 with a record number of visitors in December, capping off a year in which its tourism industry made a significant recovery from the pandemic.
The country had 2.73 million visitors last month, up from 2.44 million in November, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. December 2023’s figure was roughly 8% higher than 2019 levels.
Although Japan is unlikely to top its record of 31.9 million visitors set in 2019, Teppei Kawanishi, general manager of travel industry consultancy Honichi Lab, said tourist spending in 2023 may have reached the government’s goal of $33.81 billion. Tourist spending in Japan has received a boost from a weak yen, which has made trips in the country more affordable.
“Spending levels are very high nowadays,” Kawanishi said, adding that average spending per visitor is about 30% higher than prior to the pandemic.
While Japan’s tourism organization said December saw a record in arrivals from Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, the number of Chinese visitors in December was still 56% below pre-Covid levels. Chinese travelers represented roughly 30% of all visitors and 40% of all tourist spending in Japan in 2019.
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Photo credit: Tourists at Kiyomizu-dera. Tourism to Japan is continuing to boom. shankar s. / Flickr