In 1995, a mere 3.3 million visitors went to Japan, a land of beautiful and ancient temples, modern skyscrapers with bright neon lights, snow-capped volcanoes with a perfect cone shape, sandy beaches, good food, and polite people. During that year, it placed 34th among the most visited countries in the world according to the UN World Tourism Organization, or UNWTO, behind countries like Ukraine, Belgium, and Bulgaria.
For the next decade, Japan’s tourism growth was steadily booming. In 1998, more or less 4.1 million foreign visitors spent at least a night on Japanese soil, making it 33rd most visited country on the planet. In 2005, it increased to 6.7 million visitors, going up one notch on the list. It rose up one notch in 2010, going 31st when the foreign arrivals rise to 8.6 million.
Click here for the latest world tourism rankings compiled by UNWTO.
When the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in March 2011, Japanese tourism took a massive hit, and it continued in 2012. Tourist visit fell from 8.6 to 8.4 million. But in 2013, something incredible happened. Annual tourist arrivals soared by more or less 20 million, making Japan the decade’s fastest growing tourist destination by a long mile.
The United Nation World Tourism Organization estimated 28.7 million foreign travelers stay in 2017, an increase of 334% since 2010. Suddenly, it placed 12th among the most visited countries in the world. It is the only nation in the world that has seen a rapid increase in tourists in recent years.
Tourism all over the world is booming because of the increased affordability of flights as well as the rise of Chinese, middle-class tourists. But Japan’s rise outstrips its rivals. For example, foreign arrivals to Thailand, Japan’s closest competitor in terms of tourism growth have risen by a mere 223$ since 2010.
So, what did Japan do to have this kind of increase in tourist visits?
Japan’s tourism boom demonstrates the value of cutting the red tape in the tourism industry. It also helped that online tour sites like AllJapanTours.com are doing their part in marketing Japan as the world’s next biggest tourist destination.
In 2013, the country implemented more relaxed restrictions on their visitor’s visa for people coming from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Since 2015, they have eased up the restrictions for people from China. In 2017, it became easier for tourists from Azerbaijan to visit Japan, and this year Ukraine and India became the latest country to benefit from Japan’s relaxed visa restriction.
A total of more or less 66m countries can now visit the country as a tourist without getting a visa. The increase of Chinese tourist also fueled this tourism boom in Japan. At the start of the millennium, a mere 10.5 million foreign trips were made by Chinese residents.
Fast forward to 2017, and the number increased to 145 million, an increase of at least 1,300%. In less than 20 years, China has improved from citizens that do not travel much of the world’s most powerful travelling market, overtaking the United States by a long shot.
According to the United States World Tourism Organization, the Chinese foreign tourists spent at least $261.1 billion in 2016; it increased from a mere $10 billion in the year 2000. According to the figures, it will increase to $300 billion by 2017. Collectively, American tourists spend a relatively paltry $123.6 billion.
In 2014, the Chinese tourists overtook South Koreans as Japan’s most significant visitors. They now provide at least six million yearly tourists. For comparison purposes, there are only 1 million American tourists that visit Japan every year.
Another factor for the sudden boom of Japanese tourism is the falling of the Japanese yen’s value. On average, $1 can be bought around ¥80 in 2012. It increased to ¥98 in 2013, in 2014 it rose again at ¥112, and ¥120 in 2015. In today’s conversion, $1 is around ¥110, a lot higher compared to ten years ago. Sterling also goes a lot stronger compared to the Japanese Yen, 1 pound worth about ¥147.