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Japan’s tourism rebounds: 2.69mn visitors in January, on track for record year

Japan has started the year on a promising note for its tourism sector, with over 2 million visitors gracing its shores in January, marking the eighth consecutive month of such numbers.

According to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the 2.69 million foreign visitors for business and leisure last month nearly matched December’s figure of 2.73 million, which had set an all-time high for that month.

This sustained momentum comes on the heels of a remarkable pandemic recovery year in 2023, where over 25 million visitors entered the country, surpassing previous expectations.

The Covid-19 pandemic had severely impacted Japan’s tourism for over two years, but the country experienced a surge in visitors in 2023, aided by the yen’s rapid depreciation, making Japan an attractive and economical destination.

In January, despite a minor dip from December, arrivals remained on par with 2019 figures, when Japan had recorded a record-breaking 39.9 million tourists. The month’s statistics were influenced by the major earthquake in Ishikawa on January 1. However, tourists from South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia achieved an all-time high for any single month.

While tourism from China remains below pre-pandemic levels, with mainland Chinese visitors once constituting a significant portion, there are positive signs of recovery. Chinese visitors numbered 415,900 in January, representing a notable 33% increase from the previous month. Additionally, Japanese department stores reported robust sales of luxury goods and duty-free items in the first half of February, partly attributed to Lunar New Year celebrations.

Analysts suggest a shift in Chinese travel trends, with a preference for more leisurely trips, termed “chill stay,” in contrast to the frenetic shopping sprees witnessed in previous years. The uptick in visitor numbers and spending bodes well for Japan’s economy, where inbound tourism plays an increasingly vital role. Last year, visitors surpassed the JYP 5 trillion-mark, exceeding the government’s set target, reinforcing the economic significance of tourism to Japan.

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