Updated on June 22, 2022 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

Japan is one of the amazing tourist destinations which offers many unique experiences that cannot be found in any other part of the world. The culture of this country is an interesting blend of Eastern traditions and Western modernity that can be seen and enjoyed everywhere. One of the oldest civilizations and a beautiful and diverse history makes Japan more attractive for visitors to visit and explore. 

Tourism is a growing industry in Japan, and it has the potential to contribute meaningfully to economic growth over the next decade as the country has deregulated the industry, opened casinos, and welcomed foreign visitors to the Olympic Games in 2020. There is much more to explore about Japanese tourism, here we will describe some of the top trends, statistics, and facts of the Japanese tourism industry.

Covid-19 and Tourism Industry

The tourism industry in the current era is crucial for every country’s economy worldwide, and the Covid-19 has caused lots of disturbances in this sector. The GDP rate or the unemployment rate for those who were working in businesses related to tourism are just some of the indicators that showed a decreasing tendency.

However, Japan’s main income source for the nation’s economy is not much relied on tourism. According to OECD, 2018, it maintained a constant contribution of 7% in GDP. The Japanese economy is mainly based on production and soft industry, and these industries helped them survive the present health crisis.

Since the beginning of 2020, Japan closed its border for foreign residents coming for leisure purposes, and the restrictions regarding abroad departures for national residents were increased. Although at a first glance this was a hurdle for the travel industry. But Japan managed to introduce lots of programs to sustain the tourism businesses by facilitating travel procedures and encouraging residents to go on trips inside Japan.

Pre- and Post-Pandemic Trends and Statistics

  1. The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan was growing until 2019, but it decreased to 4,116,000 in 2020.
  2. The total number of Japanese domestic tourists in 2020 was 293.41 million (down50.0% from 2019).
  3. 160.7 milliondomestic tourists were for overnight trips (down 48.4% from 2019).
  4. 132.71 million domestic tourists were for day trips (down 51.8% from 2019).
  5. In 2020, overnight travel consumption stood at ¥7772.3 billion (down 54.7% from 2019).
  6. Day trip consumption in 2020 was ¥2201.5 billion (down 53.9% from 2019).
  7. Japanese domestic travel consumption in 2020 was ¥9973.8 billion (down 54.5% from 2019).
  8. The room occupancy rate at accommodation facilities in 2020 was 34.6%, down significantly from 62.7% in 2019.
  9. There was a significant decrease of 57.0% in Okinawa, which was a hub for long-distance travelers from Tokyo and other areas in Japan.
  10. There was a decrease of 61% in Kinki, which was heavily dependent on foreign tourists.
  11. In December 2020, Japan was chosen as the most desired travel destination by Asian, European, American, and Australian residents.
  12. From 2020, micro tourism has become mainstream amid the self-restraint of traveling across prefectural borders.
  13. Due to Covid-19, at travel destinations, the number of visits to nature, scenic spots, and hot springs, which ranked first and second in the August 2019 survey, increased.
  14. Thenumber of walks around the city and visits to historical and cultural attractionsdecreased
  15. In 2020, as for companions, the number of couples and families increased.
  16. The number of solo travelers and tripswith friends and acquaintances, which had been increasing before COVID-19, decreased in 2020.
  17. Due to Covid-19, private car demand has greatly increased as the main means of transportation to travel destinations, with the usage rate of 45.3% in the August 2019 survey growing to 69.7% in the August 2020 survey.
  18. Rental car usage also increased from 1.6% to 2.9%, indicating that using vehicles where visitors can travel with companions only is preferred.
  19. The usage of trains, airplanes, and buses decreased for personal safety purposes.
  20. On May 26, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that tour groups made up of international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from June 10, 2022.
  21. The number of arrivals permitted per day has increased from 10,000 to 20,000.

Contribution of Tourism to Japan’s Economy

  1. In 2017, tourism GDP accounted for 2.0% of total GDP and 9.6% of total employment, or 6.5 million employees.
  2. Recent growth in tourism to Japan has been very significant with international arrivals rising from 28.7 million in 2017 to 31.2 million in 2018, up 8.7%.
  3. Revenues from international tourists rose 18% from JPY 3.8 trillion to JPY 4.5 trillion between 2016 and 2018.
  4. Travel exports accounted for 21.8% of total service exports in 2018.
  5. To put this growth into perspective, there were 6.2 million international arrivals in 2011 and this five-fold increase in visitor numbers makes Japan one of the fastest-growing inbound tourism economies in the OECD.
  6. Domestic tourism by Japanese citizens is also of major economic importance with residents taking 561.8 million trips, down 13.2% over 2017, spending JPY 20.5 trillion in 2018.
  7. Domestic Tourism represents some 80% of total revenues from tourism.

Other Tourist-related Trends and Facts

  1. Japan is the 11th country worldwide by international tourist arrivals.
  2. Inbound tourism is a vital part of the Japanese economy and Japanese culture.
  3. The majority of the inbound tourists prefer leisure trips or other recreational activities.
  4. Japan is an important global hub for commerce, technology, cuisine, popular culture, and shopping.
  5. Apart from that, sightseeing attracts tourists like Himeji Castle, Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and Nara.
  6. Japan has 19 World Heritage Sites.
  7. Hiroshima, the capital city of Tokyo, Mount Fuji, ski resorts such as Niseko in Hokkaido, and riding the shinkansen attract numerous foreign tourists.
  8. The Japan Inbound TourismMarket was valued at US$ 1.6 Billion in 2020.
  9. Japan is one of the safest places to travel in the world.
  10. According to The Economist’s Safe Cities Index, Tokyo and Osaka are ranked the first and third safest cities in the world for travel. 
  11. Visitors who seek a more localized experience might choose a ryokan, Japanese-style inns found throughout the country.
  12. it’s not allowed to take photos at some shrines or temples, visitors have to follow the rules or they might be fined for doing so.
  13. No pointing fingers are allowed whenasking for directions, visitors should always use the fully open hand, palm up.
  14. Christmas is not the traditional religious celebration in Japan one might be used to, as only 1% of the population is estimated to be Christian.
  15. Japan attracts millions of tourists every year just to experience authentic Japanese food.
  16. People in Japan have the attitude to bother the peoplein their environment as little as possible.
  17. Wealthy visitors to Japan and repeat visitors, who visit Japan multiple times, tend to have a strong interest in visiting local regions and want to connect with nature and culture in Japan through “experiences.”
  18. Among the many kinds of “experiences,” especially noteworthy is adventure tourism.
  19. Adventure tourism has three pillarsactivity, nature, and intercultural experience—and aims for the sustainable development of the region and revitalization of the regional economy. 
  20.  In Japan, local “experience” tours tend to be seen as something to fill time while traveling.
  21. Overseas, by contrast, there are more than a few high-priced “experience” tours which themselves are the actual purpose of travel.
  22. In the near future, genuine experience-type local tours are no doubt can be expected in Japan.
  23. All major signage in train stations is in Japanese and English.
  24. Hotel staff usually speak a bit of English.
  25. At most restaurants, there is at least one staff member who will be able to communicate with English speakers.