National

Number of foreign visitors to Japan up 15.6% in first half of 2018

Kyodo

The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan from January to June rose 15.6 percent from the same period a year earlier to 15.89 million, a record for the first half of the year, the Japan Tourism Agency said Wednesday.

If the pace of increase is maintained, the annual figure will top 30 million for the first time. The government aims to attract 40 million foreign visitors in 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics.

An increased number of budget airline flights, mainly from elsewhere in East Asia, led to robust growth, with independent Chinese travelers and cruise ship passengers pushing up the total figure, according to the agency.

By country and region, China accounted for the largest number of foreign tourists at 4.05 million, up 23.6 percent, followed by South Korea at 4.02 million, up 18.3 percent, and Taiwan at 2.51 million, up 9.5 percent.

In June alone, 2.7 million foreign tourists visited Japan, up 15.3 percent from 2017.

The agency said the major earthquake that rocked the Kansai region last month had little impact on foreign visitor numbers, except for those from South Korea, adding that it will keep an eye on the possible effect of deadly torrential rain in western Japan earlier this month. Some hotel operators in the hardest-hit prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime have said they’ve had an increased number of cancellations in the wake of the disaster.

A separate report showed spending by foreign tourists between April and June totaled ¥1.12 trillion ($9.9 billion), up 4.2 percent from a year earlier. In the six-month period through June, spending reached ¥2.24 trillion, up 9.3 percent from a year earlier.

Spending per visitor in the April-June quarter declined 3.5 percent to about ¥144,000, apparently due in part to a fall in spending by Chinese visitors on items such as cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.

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