Japan aims high ahead of Olympics

IT’S already one of the great success stories of the global tourism boom, but with “miracle targets” to fulfil and the Olympics to host in two years’ time, Japan’s best days might be yet to come.

Having already tripled its annual international visitor arrivals in the past six years to surpass 28 million in 2017, the country is aiming to boost its tourist numbers even further to reach 40 million by the end of 2020 and 60 million by 2030. It also aims to double annual visitor spending to the equivalent of A$100 billion by 2020.

“All our promotional efforts are focused on pursuing these miracle targets,” said Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) executive vice president Mamoru Kobori at the recent Visit Japan Travel Mart in Tokyo.

“Japan is now ranked 16th in the world for inbound tourism arrivals and is catching up to other front-runner destinations. By our estimate, Japan is catching up now to Thailand and Malaysia and closing the gap quite rapidly.”

Last year Japan posted its fifth consecutive year of record arrivals, while the first eight months of this year have already delivered another 12% increase in visitors and put it on track for yet another record in 2018.

Australians have been quick to join the trend and now represent Japan’s seventh largest tourism market and its biggest-spending visitors — second only to China in average outlay.

The number of Aussies visiting Japan has surged from 206,000 in 2012 to more than 495,000 in 2017, with arrivals in the first eight months of this year up 12% over the same period last year.

A bullish outlook for the Australasian market helped attract a record contingent to the Visit Japan Travel Mart, where 22 Australian and New Zealand buyers were on the show floor including Flight Centre, Insider Journeys, JTB and Japan Holidays.

Flight Centre global procurement network product manager for Japan David Bassett said Australian bookings had surged rapidly in recent years.

“We are about 48% up this year against last year, it’s doing very well as a destination — probably the best in Asia,” Bassett said.