JNTO Announces Record-Breaking Visitor Numbers for 2017

Ooarai Isosaki Shrine

Last year saw the highest number of visitors to Japan since government records began, with the number of visitors from the UK passing 300,000 for the first time.

Over 28 Million Visitors to Japan in 2017

Jinyaji Temple ©Chiba-Prefectural Tourist Association

Latest statistics released by JNTO reveal that a record-breaking number of international visitors travelled to Japan last year. The country welcomed 28,691,000 international visitors in 2017, a 19.3% increase on the previous year (24,040,000 visitors in 2016) and the highest number since JNTO began keeping records in 1964. The results from last year show that Japan is well on the way to achieving its goal of attracting 40 million visitors by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Annual visitor numbers from the UK topped 310,000, also marking a record high. In fact, last year was a successful year for all of JNTO’s primary markets, with all twenty of its primary markets recording record numbers of international visitors. 

Among them, the top-performing individual markets were China (7,356,000 people) and South Korea (7,140,000 people), becoming the first of JNTO’s markets to achieve over 7,000,000 visitors. Between them, the four East Asian markets of China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong sent 21,292,000 international visitors to Japan, an increase of 21.9% compared to the previous year. 

In fact, more than 70% of international visitors to Japan last year came from these four countries. As in the previous year, the highest percentage of visitors was from East Asia (74.2%; compared to 72.7% in 2016); followed by 11.3% from Europe, America and Australia (12.3% in 2016); and 10.6% from South East Asia and India (11.0% in 2016). 

The Russian market also showed strong growth, with a 40.8% increase in visitors from Russia compared to the previous year, largely thanks to relaxation of visa requirements at the beginning of the year. 

Expansion of airline routes, an increase in the number of cruise port calls, relaxation of visa requirements for some countries, and continuous promotion efforts by JNTO are all thought to have helped boost international visitor numbers to record highs last year.

Over 2.5 Million Visitors to Japan in December 2017

Sankeien Garden
Figures for the final month of 2017 reflected the overall annual trend, with a record-breaking number of visitors travelling to Japan in the final month of the year. In December 2017, 2,521,000 international visitors travelled to Japan, an increase of 23.0% compared to the previous year. The figure broke the previous record for December visitors, which was 2,051,000 people in 2016, by over 470,000 people.
By market, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia posted their highest ever international visitor numbers for a single month, while sixteen other markets recorded their highest number of international visitors to date for the month of December.

In their cumulative totals from January, seven markets (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, UK, France and Italy) exceeded their annual totals for last year in December, meaning that all twenty primary markets reached their highest international visitors numbers to date.

6.2% Increase in Visitors from UK to Japan in 2017

Hananuki Gorge © Ibaraki Prefecture
A record number of people from the UK visited Japan last year. The number of visitors travelling to Japan from the UK was the highest ever at 310,500, representing a yearly increase of 6.2% and passing the 300,000 mark for the first time (the previous record was 292,458 visitors in 2016).
These positive results are thought to be the results of continuous promotion efforts by JNTO, which have helped fuel an increase in the number of people visiting Japan from the UK. The UK market is also experiencing a surge in interest in travel to Japan as the 2019 Rugby World Cup grows ever nearer. (Find out more about the latest 2019 Rugby World Cup news here).
However, increasing demand for travel from Japan to the UK has had a knock-no effect on airline routes between Japan and the UK. The overall share of flights originating in the UK has fallen, making it more difficult to secure seats on flights from the UK to Japan. In response to this situation, JNTO is developing advertising campaigns focused on price appeal in partnership with OTAs and airline companies with the aim of dispelling the image of Japan as a relatively expensive destination.


Strong Performance in Primary European Markets

Rakusanen Garden

While some months of 2017 saw fewer visitors due to a combination of factors such as rising prices coupled with poor economic growth, decrease in air seats supply, and variable Easter holiday dates, visitor numbers from all of JNTO’s main European markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK) hit record highs in 2017.

JNTO continued its efforts in all European markets through a variety of promotional activities throughout the year including joint advertising campaigns with airlines in high appeal locations such as subway stations and airports; inviting proposals for television programs and commercials; PR strategies to broaden purchasing channels; increasing multimedia coverage of Japan as a tourism destination; and relationship-building with government and industry representatives.

Highlights included the opening of new JNTO offices in Rome and Madrid in March 2017 and the resumption of direct flights between Spain and Japan for the first time in nearly two decades in October 2017 (Madrid-Narita route by Iberia Airlines). These and other continuous efforts by JNTO are thought to have contributed to the positive results in the European market in 2017.
For the latest statistics on visitor arrival numbers visit our statistics library.
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