Foreign visitor stays surged to 66.37 million in 2015

Kyodo

Hotel stays by foreign visitors to Japan rose 48.1 percent in 2015 to a record 66.37 million, government has shown, in the wake of a weak yen and measures such as tax-free shopping and the easing of visa rules.

Visitor stays are estimated by multiplying the number of visitors by days stayed.

By nationality, Chinese led the surge, with their stays more than doubling from the previous year, giving a significant boost to department store and other retail sales in Japan, where private spending has been stagnant since a consumption tax hike in 2014.

While accommodations in Tokyo and Osaka continued to attract many foreign visitors, some smaller prefectures have also seen steady increases, the Japan Tourism Agency said in a preliminary report Monday.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been stepping up efforts to increase the number of foreign tourists to 20 million annually by 2020, focusing on attracting more visitors not only to large cities but rural areas in an attempt to revitalize regional economies.

Foreign visitor stays in Tokyo stood at 17.78 million, topping the list of the 47 prefectures, with Osaka second at 9.34 million and Hokkaido third at 5.48 million.

Two other major tourist spots, Kyoto and Okinawa, also saw increases.

Among other prefectures, Shizuoka, Saga, Ibaraki, Mie and Shiga saw their numbers more than double.

Chinese visitor stays surged 111.1 percent to 16.46 million, while those of Taiwanese visitors climbed 34.9 percent to 10.71 million and those of South Koreans grew 56.6 percent to 6.80 million.

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