May 22, 2014 3:30 am JST

Japan visitors hit record in April on Tokyo airport expansion

TOKYO -- Japan welcomed a record number of foreign tourists for a second straight month in April, with many entering via a Tokyo airport that began accommodating more international flights at the end of the previous month.

     Visitors totaled 1.23 million, up 33% on the year, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday.

     Southeast Asians were particularly eager to do Japan. Visitors from the Philippines more than doubled on the year, while those from Thailand jumped 65% to an all-time high. Vacationers from Taiwan climbed 30% to a record high, and those from China surged 90%.

     The general growth is attributed to the 40% increase in international flights to and from Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Foreign nationals arriving at Haneda "likely rose 20%" from April 2013, when they totaled about 110,000, according to an official at operator Tokyo International Air Terminal. This means that the figure came to an estimated 130,000 last month.

     Travel and related industries have reaped the benefits. Hotels in the capital were busy, with occupancy at 18 leading hotels in central Tokyo edging up 1.1 percentage points to 88.8% in April.

     Department stores are enjoying strong duty-free sales, too. The monthly tally exceeded 6 billion yen ($58 million) for the first time in April with a 50% jump, according to the Japan Department Stores Association. Having totaled 38.4 billion yen for fiscal 2013, duty-free sales are set to reach 50 billion yen this fiscal year, predicts Yoichiro Ide, executive director at the trade group.

     But with the government targeting 20 million visitors a year by 2020, improvements to accommodate an increase in tourists are a must. Tokyo hotels would need more than 10,000 additional rooms to accommodate that many guests, according to Japan Tourism Marketing.

(Nikkei)

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