With the goal of drawing 20 million inbound tourists annually by 2020 within reach four years ahead of schedule, the government announced Wednesday it will double the target to 40 million.
The ambitious move came after the Japan National Tourism Organization announced in January that a record 19.73 million foreign tourists visited the country in 2015, up 47.3 percent from the previous year.
Also under the new goal, which was set at a meeting of a special panel chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government said it will target ¥8 trillion in spending by overseas visitors by 2020 — more than double last year’s record ¥3.48 trillion.
After the Olympics, the government’s aim is to attract 60 million foreign visitors a year by 2030 with the hope they will spend ¥15 trillion annually by that year.
“Tourism is an important pillar of our country’s growth strategy, and a trump card for regional revitalization. It is also an engine to boost growth to achieve the ¥600 trillion GDP goal,” Abe said as he closed the panel meeting. “To establish a tourism-based country, I’m determined to take any political measures in advance to be fully prepared.”
The new goal is “highly feasible” with the right political will and a continuous effort, tourism minister Keiichi Ishii said.
To that end, the government established 10 objectives designed to revamp the country’s tourism industry. Those include opening state guest houses in Kyoto and Akasaka to the public, remodeling national parks by 2020 to provide a more “interactive” experience and strategically enhancing the landscape of major sightseeing spots.
The plans also include increasing promotional efforts to attract more tourists from Europe, the United States and Australia, as well as wealthy tourists from other nations.
Another key is to ease regulations such as the ban on minpaku private accommodations and to revamp the immigration process at airports through the introduction of advanced technology, according to the panel.
“I believe we could successfully establish a new vision of tourism that matches the new era,” Ishii told reporters after the meeting. “I’m determined to make every effort to implement these plans.”
In addition, the new goal aims to attract 24 million “repeat” overseas visitors by 2020 — about double the figure in 2015 — and 36 million by 2030. The hope is to attract 70 million foreign guests a year to stay in regional areas by 2020 as well — about 3 times more than in 2015 — and 130 million by 2030.
The panel’s plan will also try to boost spending by domestic Japanese tourists to ¥21 trillion by 2020, a 5 percent increase above the average over the past five years, and to ¥22 trillion by 2030. The panel hopes to reach that goal by establishing a system that makes it easier for families to take vacations, thus creating a more constant demand for tourist-linked businesses.
After the record number of visitors in 2015, the upward trend shows no signs of slowing. According to JNTO’s data, about 3.74 million people have already visited Japan during the first two month of this year, up 43.7 percent from the same period last year.
The surge in the number of foreign tourists and the phenomenon known as bakugai, “explosive” shopping sprees by Chinese tourists, is a positive sign for the slumping economy.
Of the record spending seen by overseas tourists in 2015, 40.8 percent was credited to Chinese visitors, according to JNTO.