Record number of foreign visitors flock to Japan in April
Experience-based tourism, more cruise ships spur surge in arrivals
TOKYO -- Foreign visitors to Japan topped 2.57 million in April, the highest total for a single month, The Nikkei learned Thursday.
The number for April rose 23.9% from a year earlier, due largely to more visitors seeking experience-based tourism, as well as an increase in the number of cruise ships visiting the country. Arrivals for the first four months this year also grew, up 16.4% on the year to 9.11 million.
The increased number of arrivals has helped tourism-related consumption, despite a slowdown in the extravagant buying habits of Chinese visitors.
Before April, the most recent single-month record was 2.29 million, set in July 2016.
The number of visitors from South Korea rose 56.8% year-on-year to about 550,000, while those from Hong Kong jumped 64.6% to about 200,000. The numbers of visitors from 13 countries and regions, including Taiwan, set record highs in April.
In the recent past, many foreign travelers -- particularly those from China -- came to Japan to shop. Now the trend is shifting, with more visitors seeking to experience Japanese culture and lifestyles. For example, the cherry blossom season in April is especially popular, with many foreigners this year seen participating in blossom-viewing festivities.
Also, Easter spring holidays fell in April this year rather than last year's March, which brought more visitors to the country during the month.
According to Activity Japan, a booking website in Tokyo for experience-based tourism, the number of reservations on its English page increased 10 times year-on-year in April. Meanwhile, Tokyo Sushi-Making Tour saw a 50% increase in reservations for its April sushi-making programs, mainly from people in Western countries.
An increasing number of visitors are arriving by cruise ships and budget airlines, helping to drive up totals.
According to Japan's transport ministry, there will be 5,169 regular weekly flights to Japan this summer. This is the highest number ever, up 3.2% from a year earlier. In particular, South Korean airlines -- including low cost operators such as Jeju Air and T'way Air -- are expanding flights to the country, with some 882 flights weekly, up 20.3% year-on-year.