Record $56b spent in Japan by foreign visitors

Record $56b spent in Japan by foreign visitors
People visit shops to purchase food and supplies to celebrate the New Year in Tokyo's shopping district Ueno on December 31, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

A record high of ¥4.5 trillion (S$56 billion) was spent in Japan in 2018 by foreign visitors, according to the Japan Tourism Agency on Wednesday. The consumption per visitor, however, has continued to decline in recent years.

The government is looking at ways to stimulate visitors' consumption in order to achieve its target of ¥8 trillion spent in 2020.

The number of visitors to Japan in 2018 reached 31.19 million, exceeding the 30 million mark for the first time. The government's target of 40 million visitors in 2020 is in sight.

On the other hand, consumption per visitor has been sluggish in recent years. In 2015, when visitors from countries such as China purchased home appliances and daily necessities in bulk, which was dubbed a bakugai shopping spree, the per-visitor consumption reached about ¥176,000. The figure has since declined to ¥153,000 in 2018. The decline is apparently due to the Chinese government's policy since 2016 to raise duties on goods purchased overseas and brought into China, as a measure to increase domestic consumption.

Consumption per visitor tends to be high for tourists from areas far away from Japan. By region and country in 2018, visitors from Australia spent ¥242,000 per person, followed by Spain at ¥237,000 and Italy at ¥224,000.

Seeing this situation, the tourism industry will focus on attracting visitors from the United States, Europe and Australia in addition to Asian countries.

From July, the government will allow businesses during local festivals or other seasonal events to run pop-up tax-free stores targeting foreigners.

Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Tabata said at a press conference Wednesday, "This is for visitors to stay longer to extensively explore regional cities and buy goods there."

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