The summer holiday season brings forth a remarkable surge in the number of foreign visitors flocking to Japan, as revealed by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) in its recent report. With an astonishing count of nearly 11 million people visiting the country during the first half of this year, Japan’s allure is reclaiming its position on the global tourism map.
Unveiling Promising Statistics
The JNTO report presents preliminary figures, indicating that from January to June, a total of 10,712,000 foreign visitors, including tourists and businesspeople, embarked on their journeys to Japan. This figure constitutes an impressive 64.4% of the number recorded during the same period in 2019, showcasing a remarkable recovery and indicating a positive trajectory.
The surge is particularly noteworthy when comparing it to the meager 500,000 visitors witnessed in the corresponding period of the previous year, when Japan’s borders remained closed to foreign tourists due to pandemic restrictions.
Among the countries contributing to this impressive influx, South Korea leads the pack, followed by Taiwan and Hong Kong, exhibiting consistency with the visitor numbers observed in 2019. However, China stands out as an exception, with a lower-than-usual number of tourists. This can be attributed to the Chinese tourism ministry’s ongoing ban on group tours to Japan, maintained due to the persisting pandemic situation.
June: A Month of Record-Breaking Arrivals
The month of June stands out as a pinnacle of international visitation, witnessing the highest number of foreign visitors in a single month this year. Approximately 2.07 million people flocked to Japan, lured by the prospect of an enchanting summer holiday experience.
Reopening and Rejuvenation
Adding to the positive trends, Haneda Airport reopened select facilities at Terminal 2, which had been closed since April 2020. This significant milestone marks the terminal’s full-scale operation for the first time in over three years, signifying the resumption of international flight services and affirming Japan’s commitment to reviving its tourism industry.
Outbound Travel and Domestic Excursions
As inbound tourism surges, it is anticipated that the number of Japanese residents traveling abroad will also experience robust growth during the summer. According to a recent survey conducted by major travel agency JTB, an estimated 1.2 million residents are expected to embark on overseas journeys, more than doubling the figure recorded in the previous year.
Simultaneously, a substantial number of approximately 72.5 million individuals are projected to engage in domestic travel activities, marking a 16.9% increase from the previous year and matching pre-pandemic levels. The revitalization of tourism in Japan serves as a testament to the nation’s resilience and the eagerness of both international and domestic travelers to explore its captivating wonders.
Rising Costs and the Hospitality Sector
As the tourism boom gains momentum, it comes with a consequence: rising prices. The JTB survey highlights the average estimated cost of domestic travel to be ¥40,000, an increase of almost 10% compared to 2019.
One contributing factor to this trend is the escalating hotel prices. According to the U.S. hospitality research firm STR, the Average Daily Rate (ADR) for hotel rooms in Japan during the first week of July witnessed an astounding 89.7% surge compared to the same period in the previous year.
A closer look at Kyoto Prefecture, one of the most sought-after destinations among domestic and international travelers alike, reveals intriguing statistics. A recent report by the Kyoto City Tourism Association indicates that the ADR in May reached ¥19,326. This figure reflects a remarkable 37.5% increase compared to the same period in the previous year and an 11.6% rise from 2019. Notably, this marks the sixth consecutive month of the current year where the ADR surpasses that of 2019, underscoring the remarkable recovery of the tourism sector.
Balancing the Prospects: Overtourism and Sustainable Tourism Practices
While the resurgence of tourism is a positive development, concerns about overtourism have emerged. Overtourism refers to the strain placed on cities when they struggle to cope with the overwhelming demand for services, often due to limited staff and infrastructure. The effects of overtourism can lead to various challenges, including overcrowding and adverse impacts on local communities and their resources.
To address these concerns and alleviate the strain, organizations such as the Kyoto City Tourism Association have undertaken initiatives to combat overtourism. One such effort is a business project aimed at curbing the negative consequences of excessive tourism. The objective is to support tourism in a manner that reduces complaints about overcrowding while simultaneously ensuring the well-being and comfort of local residents.
As part of this project, the association collaborated with the Kyoto Prefectural Police during the Gion Festival. They implemented various measures to manage foot traffic and control crowds, including the distribution of guide maps in both English and Japanese. Furthermore, they utilized portable cameras to livestream real-time footage on YouTube, enabling visitors to gauge the level of crowding at different locations.
With foreign visitors flocking back to Japan, the country’s tourism industry is experiencing a remarkable rebound. The summer holiday season ushers in an influx of tourists from various countries, demonstrating Japan’s allure as a captivating destination. As travel resumes and surpasses pre-pandemic levels, it is essential to address the challenges associated with overtourism and foster sustainable tourism practices to ensure an optimal and enjoyable experience for visitors while preserving the well-being of local communities.