The number of foreign tourists arriving in Japan continued its upward trajectory in 1Q2017, although a sharp decline in per capita spending is attributed to Chinese visitors exercising more prudence with their cash.
According to Japan Tourism Agency, an estimated 6.5 million people visited the country in the first quarter, up 13.6 per cent on the same period last year. The total amount those visitors spent came to 967.9 billion yen (US$8.9 billion), up four per cent on the previous year, although the expenditure per person tumbled 8.5 per cent to 148,066 yen.
Souvenir shops at Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
Significantly, while the number of Chinese arrivals climbed 25.2 per cent to nearly 1.7 million during the three-month period, they spent 14.9 per cent less per person.
“Last year, Chinese visitors’ main purpose for visiting Japan was to go shopping; this year, they are more keen to visit cultural and historic sights and see scenic spots,” said Nori Hayashi, director of sales for Tokyo Asean Service.
“Also, they are spending significantly less on accommodation than previously,” he told TTG Asia. “Before they were staying at big city hotels; now they are choosing cheaper business hotels or Airbnb-style accommodation.
“We are seeing this reduced spending most clearly in Chinese travellers, but also in arrivals from Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong,” he added.
Another factor has been the introduction of an import tax by the Chinese government on tax-free goods purchased in Japan, negating the savings.
Yukihiko Hashimoto, of the marketing division of Celebrity Cruises in Japan, agrees that the reduction in spending is most visible among Chinese travellers.
“We are hearing that stores in port cities are working harder to attract Chinese visitors and to encourage them to spend money,” he said.
Despite the reluctance of a large proportion of Japan’s inbound tourists to splash out – a trend that travel agents expect to continue – they say there has been no impact as yet on the price of Japan packages and tours.