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Visitors to Japan Top 20 Million in Eight Months, But Summer Growth Slows
[2018.10.05]

The number of foreign arrivals in Japan is breaking records once again in 2018, with over 20 million entering the country through August alone. A string of natural disasters is casting a shadow over future prospects, though.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of foreign visitors arriving in Japan in 2018 reached some 21,308,900 as of the end of August, surpassing the 20 million mark earlier than any other year in history. The JNTO cites the addition of new aircraft and expansion of flight routes, together with the continuous development and promotion of tourism, as the drivers behind this record-breaking number.

The greatest number of arrivals from the August 2018 totals were from China, with 5,795,600 (up 18.7% from 2017); South Korea, with 5,218,300 (up 12.0%); and Taiwan, with 3,360,800 (up 8.0%). The countries with the biggest percentage hikes since last year were Russia, which increased by 27.2% to 60,900; Vietnam, up 26.9% to 262,000; and Spain, up 21.5% to 79,500.

The year-on-year growth in the monthly figures had been in the double digits from February onward, but the monthly arrivals only increased by 5.6% in July and 4.1% in August—a significant drop from the previous annual growth levels. Due to the influence of the earthquake that struck Osaka on June 18 and the torrential rains in late June and early July in western Japan, some East Asian travelers, who had helped to drive growth in tourism previously, appeared to begin avoiding travel to Japan.

Osaka is one of the most popular destinations for travelers from South Korea, a major source of inbound traffic. Due in no small part to the influence of the earthquake, though, Korean visitor numbers dropped by 5.6% in July compared to the previous month and by an additional 4.3% in August. Hong Kong, too, saw no growth in travel to Japan despite increased airline seat volumes compared with the same months in 2017.

Arrivals by Month

2017 2018 Increase (%)
January 2,295,668 2,501,409 9.0
February 2,035,771 2,509,297 23.3
March 2,205,664 2,607,956 18.2
April 2,578,970 2,900,718 12.5
May 2,294,717 2,675,052 16.6
June 2,346,442 2,704,631 15.3
July 2,681,518 2,832,000 5.6
August 2,477,428 2,577,800 4.1

Compiled by Nippon.com based on data from the JNTO.

Further weakening of the numbers is expected in September, too. The powerful Typhoon Jebi made landfall on September 4, temporarily shutting down Kansai International Airport, and the September 6 Hokkaidō Earthquake recorded a seismic intensity of 7, the top of Japan’s intensity scale. These natural disasters also caused fear and reduced people’s desire to visit Japan. According to a Hokkaidō prefectural government report, as of September 15, there had been 942,000 nights worth of lodging cancellations; the impact on tourism revenues, including transportation expenses, food, and souvenirs, reached an estimated ¥29.2 billion, including domestic travel. The JNTO says that it will keep a close watch on factors influencing the inbound travel market and continue its work to report accurate information.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Osaka’s Kuromon market is a popular destination among foreign tourists. © Jiji.)

  • [2018.10.05]
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