New challenges for the nation’s tourism industry ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games

As Japan passed the 30-million international travellers’ mark for the first time, the country now looks to spread tourism benefits all across to new destinations

Last year, Japan recorded 31-million international travellers, representing a threefold growth over the 10 million international travellers recorded just five years before, back in 2013.
The interest in destination Japan is likely to continue unabated. This is due to a combination of a relatively weak Yen, the abolition of visas for many countries and continuous growth in air transport capacities. As an example, All Nippon Airways is adding this year routes to Vienna- Tokyo and Perth-Tokyo while Japan Airlines is returning to Seattle after more than 25 years.
With an eye on the hosting in Tokyo of the Summer Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in 2020, the government is targeting 40 million international travellers that year. Recently Japan’s largest travel agency and tour operator JTB Corp released a forecast over inbound tourist arrivals in 2019. JTB expects that growth will reach 12% translating into 35.5 million foreign arrivals. For 2030, the government has the ambition to accommodate 60 million foreign visitors.
The sharp increase in inbound tourism in recent years however brings some challenges. There is a need to diversify arrivals’ sources. In 2018, 74% of all travellers came from Northeast Asia – China, Korea, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. Southeast Asia generated another 14% while the rest of the world represented only 12% of all arrivals. Increased promotion such as Japan’s presence at ITB seems a necessity. Another challenge is to lure travellers outside of the three big metropolitan areas consisting of Tokyo, Nagoya and the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto). This “golden tourism triangle” today attracts 59% of all foreign overnights. The government has set a target of increasing the share of foreign visitors who stay outside the three areas to 50% in 2020 and 60% in 2030. Increased advertising internationally and additional direct overseas ights will be a priority over the coming years.