JAPAN experienced a 26.7 per cent increase in tourist arrivals in the January to July period of this year, surging way ahead of the modest global arrivals growth of five per cent over the same period.
Speaking on Wednesday, the opening day of the Visit Japan Travel & MICE Mart 2016, Mamoru Kobori, executive vice president of the Japan National Tourism Organisation said that Japan is on course to surpass the 20 million visitors expected this year.
“Inbound tourist numbers have increased remarkably since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, with every year since then showing record-breaking growth,” he said.
The boon is coming on the back of a proactive government that relaxed or abolished visa requirements for a number of countries, a burgeoning middle-class with greater travel aspirations, increased connectivity especially by LCCs, as well as promotional efforts by travel operators and the JNTO.
Basking in the afterglow of the recently concluded 2016 Olympic Games, Kobori emphasised that it is now Japan’s turn, pointing to a number of major sporting events to be held over the coming years.
Besides the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Sapporo will host the Asian Winter Games in 2017, the Rugby World Cup will be staged across the country in 2019 and the Kansai region will be the venue for the World Masters’ Games in 2021.
In order to reach out to new markets, the JNTO is also preparing to open no fewer than seven offices before the end of March 2017. The new outposts will be in Madrid, Rome, Moscow, Delhi, Hanoi, Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
Kobori said that visa requirements for Russian tourists are expected to change soon, making it easier for them to travel to Japan.
Statistics indicate that 2016 will be an “epoch-making year” for the Japanese travel industry, he added, with the number of inbound travellers eclipsing the total number of Japanese travelling overseas for the first time in 45 years.