February 16, 2017 5:50 am JST

Japan visitors up 24% in January on early Lunar New Year

Retailers see uptick in tourist shopping

A cruise ship enters port in Kobe, Japan. The nation's inbound tourism continues to be strong in 2017.

TOKYO -- Japan enjoyed a hefty boost in visitors last month amid an early start to the Lunar New Year holidays, government data shows, while retail sales to foreign tourists appear to be recovering.

Visitors rose 24% on the year to 2,295,700 in January, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday. The tally approached the monthly record set in July.

Tourists from mainland China climbed 33% to around 630,000, while the number of visitors from Hong Kong soared 48% to 180,000. Japan also recorded a 35% rise in visitors from Singapore, a 74% surge from Malaysia and a 64% jump from Indonesia. An increase in flights and cruise trips helped lift the numbers.

Purchases by foreign travelers seem to be picking up steam again, based on interviews with retailers conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency. "Retail sales are recovering in value terms," Akihiko Tamura, the agency's chief, told reporters.

Visitors to Japan increased 22% last year to 24.04 million, and the momentum continues in 2017. The Lunar New Year holidays ran from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 this year, compared with Feb. 7-13 last year. The shift may result in a milder increase for this month. 

(Nikkei)

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