Jump in tourism to Japan

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The number of foreign visitors coming to Japan in the first nine months of the year leapt compared to a year earlier with the number likely already hitting a record 20 million visitors and eclipsing the total visitors for the whole of 2015, the Japan Tourism Agency said Monday.

According to the agency, for the first nine months of the year the number of visitors jumped 24.1 percent from the same period a year earlier totaling 17.98 million, with numerous estimated to have already exceeded 20 million.

The previous record for the entire year was 19.74 million logged in 2015 the agency said.

The number of visitors could have been higher, the agency said, but were impacted by powerful earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture in April as well as a firm yen which dissuaded some travelers.

The agency said however that owing to eased visa restrictions for some countries and a growing number of new routes from major hubs, including both air and sea ports, a significant uptick in visitors, particularly from Southeast Asian countries, was seen.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesperson, said more needed to be done however to ease visa restrictions and attract more visitors ahead of Tokyo hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

“We have set a goal of 40 million foreign visitors annually in 2020 so there are still many more things for us to do,” Suga told a press briefing Monday, adding that the government currently needs to consider further relaxing visa requirements, including those for visitors from China, Russia and India.

Suga also said better provisions need to be made to accommodate Japan’s overseas visitors. He also noted that while shopping sprees here have already passed their peak, owing to a fir yen, the increase in visitors will continue to be a boon for the country.

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