Japan achieves 10 million tourist target for 2013

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Japan on Friday welcomed its 10 millionth international visitor this year, achieving the government’s goal with barely less than two weeks to go.

On top of the weakening yen and recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tourist numbers were helped by easier visa regulations for Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as the increase in budget airlines serving Japan.

“It’s been 10 years since we launched the Visit Japan campaign and attracting 10 million visitors has been our genuine wish” and we have finally achieved the goal, transport minister Akihiro Ota said during a ceremony at Narita International Airport.

A couple from Thailand, Praphan Pha Tra Prasit and Yu Pha Da Pha Tra Prasit, were chosen as the collective 10 millionth memorial visitors and joined the ceremony. They received goods including a plaque and lamps decorated with Japanese papers.

Although a time frame has not been set, the government is now aiming to double its goal to 20 million, with a long-term goal of drawing in 30 million tourists by 2030.

The goal of 10 million visitors in one year was first set in 2010, but only 8.61 million tourists showed up. While the figure may have fallen short of the goal, it was still a record that stood until this year.

There was a serious decline in 2011 due to the Tohoku natural disasters and Fukushima nuclear crisis. The figure recovered last year before finally reaching the 10 million goal in 2013.

According to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization, visitors from pretty much all countries increased except for China.

The relaxed visa regulations paid off with tourists from most ASEAN members increasing. Between January and November, visitors from Vietnam increased 53.5 percent over the same period last year, while the figure was 36 percent for Indonesia and 69 percent for Thailand.

While the government may have reached its 10 million goal, the number is not all that impressive when measuring countries and regions with strong tourism. For instance, 27 countries in 2012 drew more than 10 million visitors. France was No. 1 with 83 million while China drew 57.7 million and South Korea 11.1 million.