The number of visitors to Japan in 2016 will surge 19 percent from the previous year to hit a record high of 23.5 million, topping the government’s target of 20 million, according to a recent estimate by major travel agency JTB Corp.
The upbeat outlook is attributed in part to a growing number of foreign tourists visiting a variety of tourist destinations in Japan, not just the so-called Golden Route covering the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, as well as the nation’s iconic Mount Fuji.
For instance, Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, attracted about 50,000 foreign tourists in the year through last September, up tenfold from two years earlier.
“We saw a phenomenon in which a Thai tourist posted photos of the park’s wisteria on a photo-sharing website and tourists who saw the photos have come to the park,” an executive of the flower park’s management firm said.
In the estimate, JTB also took account of the government’s plan to expand the country’s capacity to receive cruise ships, on which over 1 million foreign tourists arrived in Japan in 2015.
The designations of Tokyo’s Ota Ward, which hosts Haneda airport, and Osaka Prefecture as strategic deregulation zones for minpaku, or unconventional hotel businesses, are also expected to lead to a rise in the number of foreign visitors.
JTB’s estimate also showed that the number of domestic tourists will grow 0.7 percent to 293.6 million in 2016.
“Japanese tourists are revisiting domestic sightseeing spots that attracted foreign visitors,” a JTB official said.