TOKYO: Japan welcomed a record number of visitors in December, official data showed on Wednesday (Jan 17), closing out a year of rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of foreign visitors for business and leisure rose to 2.73 million last month from 2.44 million in November, data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) showed.
It was the highest-ever number of tourists for December and about 8 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic level seen in 2019.
For the full year 2023, a little more than 25 million visitors arrived in Japan, the agency said.
Tourism to Japan all but halted for more than two years during the pandemic as the country put up some of the world’s strictest border controls. But arrivals bounced back quickly after the government resumed visa-free travel for many countries in October 2022.
Arrivals exceeded 2 million every month since June last year, boosted by a weakening in the yen that makes Japan cheaper compared to other destinations.
Visitors this year are likely to break 2019’s record of 31.9 million, but tourist spending last year may have already reached the government’s goal of ¥5 trillion (US$33.81 billion), said Teppei Kawanishi, general manager at travel industry consultancy Honichi Lab.
Average spending per visitor is about 30 per cent higher than before the pandemic, driven in part by repeat travellers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia, Kawanishi said.
“Spending levels are very high nowadays,” he added.