Japan attracted a record 28.69 million tourists in 2017, up 19.3 percent from the previous year and the sixth consecutive yearly increase, the transport minister said Friday.
“In 2017, there was a sharp increase in tourists from Asia, and we need to make more efforts to attract tourists from a wide range of countries and regions,” Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii told a news conference.
Ishii credited the growth to an increase in discount flights from South Korea and other Asian countries and cruise ships from China, as well as the easing of visa requirements for Chinese and Russian travelers.
The government will release a regional breakdown and other details next week.
The government has set a goal of 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
It plans to use revenue from a new ¥1,000 departure tax to be imposed on every person leaving Japan from January 2019 to promote tourism.
Japan used to focus on drawing shopaholic tourists to urban areas like Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district. But in recent years, more visitors have been venturing away from traditional tourist hubs like the capital and the ancient city of Kyoto, and going further afield rather than buying gadgets to take home, industry experts say.
However, busloads of tourists from around the world still regularly leave Tokyo for a day trek around Mount Fuji.
“In addition to individual Asian visitors and repeat customers, we need to continue raising awareness among potential tourists in Europe, the U.S. and Australia,” Ishii added.