Japan tourism sees monthly tourist numbers return to pre-Covid level
Inbound tourism has been one of the few bright spots in Japan’s patchy economic recovery while the yen’s slide this year boosts tourists' purchasing power.
The number of visitors was about 2.52 million, compared with roughly 2.50 million in October 2019, Japan’s National Tourism Organization reported Wednesday.
Inbound tourism has been one of the few bright spots in Japan’s patchy economic recovery. Spending by foreign visitors to Japan already exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the quarter through September as the yen’s slide this year boosted their purchasing power.
The uptick in tourism is an example of how the weak yen has benefited the economy. On the flipside, currency weakness has pushed up import costs for domestic shoppers and companies, fueling inflation.
Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said the government aims to maximize the positive effects of the soft yen and ease the negative ones through its latest economic stimulus measures.
So far this year, the yen has weakened around 13% against the dollar, and around 14% against the euro, pushing up overseas tourists’ spending capacity. The yen has also dropped against the yuan and the Korean won.
Japan’s economy shrank more than expected in the third quarter, contracting 2.1% on an annualized basis, largely on the back of reduced business spending, lackluster consumption and a drag from net exports.
A further jump in tourism this quarter could help the country avoid falling into a technical recession.
The number of visitors from South Korea in October was 631,100, more than three times the pre-pandemic tally. Visitors from Taiwan, Singapore and the US also beat their respective levels in October 2019.
The number of Chinese visitors, who were the biggest group before the pandemic, fell by 21% to about 256,300 from the previous month. That was also down two-thirds from October four years ago.
Their return has slowed despite the end of China’s ban on tour groups to Japan in August. Tension between the two countries continues to simmer over Japan’s release of treated wastewater into the sea from the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
With domestic demand still sluggish, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has put together a stimulus package worth more than ¥17 trillion ($113 billion), with a focus on income tax cuts and handouts to low-income households to help them deal with higher prices caused partly by the weak yen.