Japan has seen a substantial increase in the number of international tourists since the country open its borders in late 2022, said Shinya Kurosawa, president and CEO of JTB Global Marketing & Travel at ITB Berlin. According to Travel Weekly Asia, the recovery ratio for Japan’s tourism industry in early 2023 stood at about 76%, excluding mainland China, while the number dropped to 56% including it.
The demand for tourism in Japan is very high, Travel Weekly Asia reports, with bookings for the upcoming cherry blossom season breaking records for JTB Group, which sees Europe, the US, Latin America, and Asia as its key markets for inbound travel to Japan. The cherry blossom season generally runs between late February to late May.
Kurosawa did point out that the country still faced a significant challenge in terms of low staffing in the hospitality industry. “The prevailing problem that needs to be solved now is that the lack of manpower in the tourism industry,” Kurosawa told Travel Weekly Asia. “We do care about the quantity of travellers coming in, but we also have to ensure and maintain the quality of services in order to effectively cater to all the tourists.”
The lifting of restrictions by Covid-19 at the end of 2022 brought a considerable increase in the number of international visitors to Japan in 2022. According to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), Japan welcomed 3,831,900 foreign tourists in 2022, about 15 times more than in 2021. The lifting of restrictions by COVID-19 brought a significant recovery, although the 2022 figure only represents 10% of the total recorded in 2019, just before the pandemic.
The number of international visitors reached a record high for seven consecutive years since 2013 and reached 31.9 million in 2019. The government set a target of 40 million visitors by 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were scheduled to be held. However, the pandemic prompted the imposition of a series of restrictions in February 2020, and around April the country remained virtually closed to foreign visitors.
As of June 2022, the government reopened the country to international tourists. Japan notably relaxed entry requirements, lifting, for example, the ban on individual travel and restoring the visa exemption for many tourists. These measures, combined with the rampant depreciation of the yen, spurred a recovery in the number of visitors to Japan, which began in October.
By country, South Korea was the source of a majority of tourists, with 1,012,700 people, followed by Taiwan (331,100), the United States (323,500) and Vietnam (284,100). However, China’s strict zero Covid policy resulted in Japan receiving only 189,000 Chinese nationals in 2022.