National

Is the party over? Spending by overseas visitors drops for first time in 19 quarters

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Foreign visitors spent ¥971.7 billion during the July to September period, down 2.9 percent from the same period last year and the first such drop in 19 quarters, the Japan Tourism Agency announced Wednesday.

The per-capita spending during the same period also fell 17.1 percent to ¥155,133.

Businesses and policymakers had long feared the time when the tourism boom of the last few years would lose steam. Wednesday’s figures suggest the beginning of the end may be at hand.

The massive spending spree by Chinese travelers, known as the bakugai (explosive buying) phenomenon, appears to be disappearing fast.

Chinese travelers were still the biggest spenders, splurging ¥227,821 on average per person from July to September, but their spending was down 18.9 percent from the same period a year earlier. Chinese nationals, the largest overseas visitor group, account for 45.3 percent of all foreign travelers, meaning a drop in their spending has the greatest impact on the figures.

Per-capita spending by travelers from the rest of the top five markets — Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and the United States — declined by 15.6 percent, 11.8 percent, 23.6 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

Officials blamed the stronger yen for the tightening of purse strings. On a local currency basis, spending remained somewhat flat for Chinese, Taiwanese and South Koreans, while decreasing 8.3 percent for Hong Kongers. Consumption by Americans, on the other hand, increased by 17.2 percent in dollar terms.

Meanwhile, the number of foreign travelers reached 1.91 million in September, up 19 percent from the same period last year, the Japan National Tourism Organization said, noting that it was a record high for September.

Many visitors used their seasonal holidays to travel to Japan, and the expansion of incoming flights and cruise tours contributed to the surge, the JNTO said.

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