Date
11 December 2017
Tourists look out from the veranda of an ancient temple in Kyoto, Japan. Asian tourists are driving an influx of visitors to the country. Photo: Bloomberg
Tourists look out from the veranda of an ancient temple in Kyoto, Japan. Asian tourists are driving an influx of visitors to the country. Photo: Bloomberg

What’s taken Japan a generation to reverse?

It has been a generation in the making but Japan is finally enjoying a surplus of tourist spending — foreigners are bringing in more money than Japanese holidaymakers are taking out.

Japan’s aggregate tourism revenue topped expenditure by 17.7 billion yen (US$172 million) in April, according to the Financial Times, citing official data.

It was the largest such surplus on record and the first since July 1970. The spending was mainly driven by middle-class Chinese, Thais and Indonesians. 

The latest data from February showed a near-doubling in the number from Thailand compared with the same month in 2013, and increases of 50-60 per cent from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The number of Chinese tourists swelled by 140 per cent in spite of political tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over a territorial dispute.

Also, Japan is attracting more holidaymakers from Europe and North America, the report said. 

Asian tourism has been changing for several years, notably after 2012 when the yen began a 20 per cent decline against other major currencies, significantly lowering the cost of everything from hotels to meals to shopping for foreigners.

Tokyo has set a goal of doubling the number of tourist visits to 20 million by the end of the decade when it is scheduled to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

It has relaxed visa requirements for short-term visitors from a number of Asian countries.

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