Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner for many countries. Most of them are keen on creating an environment that is conducive and attractive for tourists. Governments and the private sector the world over market the tourist attractions within their jurisdictions to ensure they get a share of international travelers. Local tourist destinations are also increasingly becoming popular with citizens of the country which the attractions are located being charged lower prices by the relevant entities to encourage them to visit and promote their tourism sites. People are usually interested in visiting new places, beautiful landscapes, sunny beaches, primitive societies and historical monuments among others. Asia as a continent prides itself in being the home to a significant proportion of international tourists. Japan is one of the biggest beneficiaries. The country is home to about nineteen world heritage sites. Japan has managed to keep intact key aspects of its culture, a factor that has for years ensured it continuously attract tourists who are interested in learning more about the way of life of its people (McDowell 2015). Japan’s tourism industry is headed for great growth with current trends and future the government future targets set to see inbound visitors making sector become the country’s main source of employment.
The country’s tourism sector is recording steady growth. The number of tourists in Japan has been increasing in the recent years. The year 2016 has seen the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan rise to 2.3 million in the month of July alone (Japan National Tourism Organization 2016). The figure represents a 19.7 percent increase in terms of proportion compared to July of 2015. The figure surpassed that recorded in the month of April 2016 that initially had the highest figures for the year 2016 with the excess figure standing at 215000 visitors. The government had placed its estimates on inbound visitors at 20 million visitors by the year 2020 with last year missing the target by less than half a million with the figure standing at 19.7 million. The figure represents a 47.1% rise compared to that of the year 2014. The growth rate for the year 2016 is the highest since 1964 when the country’s national tourism organization started collecting data. Given the momentum with which the tourism sector is growing, the country is set to not only achieve the year 2020 target but also surpass it by a huge margin. The success has got the government to start considering reviewing the target and setting a higher one.
The composition of inbound visitors has also changed. Chinese visitors constituted the largest proportion of the visitors for the first time Japan’s tourism history. Such an event was unexpected. There are several factors that can explain the change. One of them is the growing middle-class in China. The economic growth in China has been accompanied by an increase in the number of people joining the country’s middle-class category who have greater amounts of disposable income that they can spend on luxury. Another reason for the large number of Chinese visiting is the weakening of Yen (Japan’s currency) against the Chinese currency (World Travel & Tourism Council 2015). The depreciation of the Yen makes inbound visitors find the cost of visiting Japan as holiday destination cheaper than before. The third factor in growth is relaxing of Japan’s visa requirement. The Chinese tourists were also the largest spenders. Their total expenditure accounted for about 40.8% of the 3.5 trillion Yen spent by tourists in 2015. The spending was so much and popular that it resulted in the coining of the term ‘bakugai’ which means explosive buying, to refer to the shopping sprees associated with the Chinese tourists.
Even though China ranks at the top in terms of inbound tourist to Japan, factoring in the population shows a lot of potential for growth (Research & Co 2016). For instance, even though Taiwan and Hong Kong are much smaller in comparison to China their proportionate tourist numbers are far much than those of China. In view of the growth potential, Japan can look forward to a greater number of inbound Chinese tourists than before. Japan also still has more room for deregulation, a factor that is bound to lead to a surge in the number of tourists from its three biggest inbound tourists that include Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans. However, a reversal in the weakening of the Yen may lead to a counter effect that may see the numbers become more unpredictable.
Inbound tourism is one of the most promising businesses in Japan. Holiday and travel is the new employment platform and economic driver for the population. Its contribution currently rivals that of the auto industry that is a major employer. The sector currently employs more than 3% of the country’s total population (Japan Macro Advisors 2016). After the winning the bid to host the 2020 Olympics, the government intensified its efforts aimed at promoting tourism. The private sector was not let behind. Various stakeholders began taking advantage of the measures set in place by the government in promoting tourism to offer complementary services that would help create enabling conditions. One of such initiatives was by NTT Docomo Inc that launched a wireless internet service to cater for foreign tourist some of whom had initially complained about the lack of wifi in the country (Kodera 2014). Such kinds of initiatives by both the government and the private have created more employment opportunities especially in the service industry.
Clearly, Japan’s tourism industry is headed for great growth given the current trends and future the government future targets that might see the inbound visitors become the main source of employment. The country’s tourism sector is recording steady growth. Inbound tourist numbers in Japan have been increasing at an unprecedented rate in the recent years, helping it set new records in its tourism sector (Business Monitor International Ltd. 2016). The composition of inbound visitors has also changed. This year, Chinese visitors constituted the largest proportion of the visitors for the first time in Japan’s tourism history. Factors such as deregulation, a weakening Yen and a surge in the middle-class are the main contributors to this new trend. Despite the fact that China ranks at the top in terms of inbound tourist to Japan, factoring in the population size shows a lot of potential for growth. Japan can take advantage of the opportunity to do more in terms of deregulation and creating a more conducive environment for tourists. Inbound tourism is one of the most promising businesses and the various stakeholders in Japan’s tourism industry should do their best to maximize their income.
Business Monitor International Ltd. (2016). Japan tourism report. London, Business Monitor International.
Japan Macro Advisors, (2016). Number of Visitors to Japan|Foreign visitors|Tourism. [online] japanmacroadvisors.com. Available at: https://www.japanmacroadvisors.com/page/category/economic-indicators/gdp-and-business-activity/number-of-visitors-to-japan/ [Accessed 19 Sep.
Japan National Tourism Organization (2016) Welcome to the Japan national tourism organization website. Available at: http://www.seejapan.co.uk/jnto_consumer/index (Accessed: 19 September 2016).
Kodera, A. (2014) Tourism emerges as new economic driver for Japan | the Japan times. Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/25/reference/tourism-emerges-new-economic-driver-japan/#.V-AIjTVJR-8 (Accessed: 19 September 2016).
McDowell, P. (2015). Japan, Sage, London
Research, J.T. and Co, C. (2016) Japan tourism marketing Co. Available at: http://www.tourism.jp/en/statistics/ (Accessed: 19 September 2016).
World Travel & Tourism Council (2015) Economic Impact 2015 Japan . Available at: https://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/economic%20impact%20research/countries%202015/japan2015.pdf (Accessed: 19 September 2016).
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