Japan’s visitor count hits record high with Thai tourists in the mix

Picture of Thai tourists near Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan, on April 13, 2024, courtesy of Bangkok News

Japan experienced a surge in foreign visitors in March, surpassing the three million mark for the first time in a single month. Thai tourists to Japan ranked sixth, contributing to the notable increase in visitors.

South Korea topped the list with 663,100 visitors marking a 13.2% rise from 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Taiwan and China followed with 484,400 and 452,400 visitors respectively. The number of visitors from the United States was 290,100, a 64.3% increase, while Hong Kong followed with 231,400, a 35% rise. Despite a 10.7% drop from 2019, Thai tourists, at 131,700, led the number of holidaymakers from Southeast Asia.

The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) reports that the expenditure by foreign visitors in Japan also hit a record high. A staggering 1.75 trillion yen (418 billion baht) was spent in the first quarter of 2024, marking the highest ever for three months. This significant increase was largely driven by a weak yen.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during a meeting of a ministerial council aimed at promoting Japan as a tourism-oriented country, expressed his delight at the increase in tourists.

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“We can expect record highs for both arrivals and spending in 2024 if the current pace continues.”

The pre-pandemic era of 2019 saw an annual record of 31.88 million arrivals and a monthly high of 2,991,189 arrivals in July 2019. In 2023, a record 5.3 trillion yen was spent by visitors.

As Japan strives to attract 60 million foreign visitors annually by 2030, it faces challenges stemming from the tourism boom, such as littering and traffic congestion. Kishida has urged ministers to improve measures addressing “over-tourism,” including diverting tourists from overcrowded urban areas to the country’s rural parts.

Japanese travelling overseas in March increased by 75.7% from the previous year, hitting 1,219,800. However, this figure was still down 36.8% compared to 2019, reported Bangkok Post.

In related news, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reported over 28 million foreign arrivals in Thailand in 2023, with the largest number of travellers, 4.2 million, coming from Malaysia. Japan ranked tenth with 804,205 visitors.

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Alex Morgan

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