Japan’s Tourism Boom: The Fastest Growing Tourist Destination In The World?
It seems that no conversation between travel enthusiasts is complete without mentioning Japan, and that's hardly a surprise. With its unique culture, majestic nature, mysterious historical sites, and a meticulous approach to the travel industry, Japan has grown from 3.3 million visitors in 1995 to more than 30 million in 2019. That places it among the 40 most visited countries on the planet, and the growth doesn't seem to be slowing anytime soon. The Japanese government and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have set a goal to reach 40 million visitors in 2020, which will partially be a result of the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games that will take part in Tokyo. His target for 2030 is 60 million, resulting in tourism becoming a key growth sector of Japan.
Who Visits Japan the Most?
Although Japan is a globally recognized travel destination, travelers from East Asian countries— particularly China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong—are still accounting for 74 percent of all visitors. The growth of visitors from these countries is due not only to the proximity, but also the depreciation of the yen in 2012, as well as simplified visa requirements which made traveling to Japan easier and more affordable. The remaining percentage of travelers to Japan are mainly those from Europe, the USA, and Australia.
The Impact of Tourism on Locals
The result of this substantial growth in tourism is twofold. Naturally, there are many benefits. The growth and investment in tourism means more jobs for the locals, improved infrastructure, and improved efforts to preserve the country's heritage and natural sights. On the other hand, the popular attractions, particularly Tokyo and Kyoto, can become so overcrowded with tourists that local residents have difficulties running their regular errands, such as visiting the market or riding on public transport without encountering floods of travelers. As a response to the negative impact, officials, including Kazuya Fukuhara, assert that the crowds of travelers are concentrated in limited areas.
Although tourists visit only well-known sights in large crowds, a plan that will cater to tourists without having a negative impact on the daily life of locals is crucial if Japan plans to go through with their lofty growth goals for the future. One such solution presented by the Japan National Tourism Organization involves spreading travelers out to destinations beyond usual tourist hotspots such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mount Fuji. They argue that the travelers will not only improve the country's economy, but also prevent disuse of infrastructure in distant locations, which is currently a risk due to the aging population.
Whether the travelers will take the bait and start exploring other areas is still unknown, but one thing is for sure—there is no sign of a slowdown for the Japanese tourism sector in the near future.
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