Island nation is set to host Rugby World Cup and Olympic Games in next two years, writes Anthony Pearce.
Japan will welcome 40 million visitors a year by 2020, the executive vice president of its national tourist board has said.
Mamoru Kobori, of the Japan National Tourism Organisation, said the country has experienced double digit growth for the sixth consecutive year.
Last year’s record high of 28.69 million was up 19 per cent on the 24 million who visited in 2016. Between January and July of 2018, the county experienced another 19 per cent increase.
Speaking at the Visit Japan Travel & Mice Mart 2018 (VJTM) in Tokyo, Kobori said that Japan was closing the gap on one of Asia’s most popular destinations, Thailand, which welcome welcomed 32 million visitors in 2016.
Tokyo will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. The JNTO said it was expecting around 400,000 rugby fans to visit the city next year.
The UK is one of six European countries, which make up almost four per cent of all tourism to the country. British tourists are among the top spenders, according to the JNTO.
At an event earlier in the day at VJTM, Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, said the city has been investing in infrastructure that will see it become more tourist friendly.
She said that as the first city to host the Paralympic games twice, Tokyo has a “responsibility to make roads and rail stations without barriers for those with accessibility issues”.
She added that there would be more signs in English in the capital.
The JNTO said Britons were most likely to visit Japan for the culinary experience. It said that culture and history, sightseeing and, to a lesser extent, shopping were also factors.
Kobori added that cruise was a big part of Japan’s plans for attracting more tourism, describing it as “great opportunity” and a “very important sector”.
“Six regional ports are being invested in,” he said, adding that there are “nearly 100 ports in Japan, and they are all wishing to have cruise ships stop at them.”
At another VJTM event, executives from the public and private tourism sectors discussed the impact of the natural disasters on tourism. This year the country has suffered heat waves, floods and an earthquake.
The JNTO said a budget had been set aside specifically to combat falls in tourism following disasters and to promote affected areas.
All 47 prefectures of Japan are represented at this year’s VJTM 2018, which is welcoming almost 800 overseas companies and organisations.