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Number of foreign visitors top pre-COVID 2020 levels

                                People wearing and not wearing face masks shop around at a shopping street in Tokyo.
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People wearing and not wearing face masks shop around at a shopping street in Tokyo.

TOKYO >> The number of international visitors to Japan exceeded 2 million during the month of June, the first time in three years and five months, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

There were an estimated 2,073,300 foreign visitors for the month, the tourism organization said. The last time the monthly number topped 2 million was in January 2020, when it reached 2.66 million.

June’s figure was 72% of that in June 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world. The amount spent by foreign visitors also continues to steadily recover.

From January to June this year, the total number of visitors to Japan was 10,712,000, or 64.4% of the total for the same period in 2019.

During the pandemic, Japan had 4.12 million foreign visitors in 2020, just 250,000 in 2021 and 3.83 million in 2022. In the first half of this year alone, Japan has seen a recovery that far exceeds those annual figures.

By country or region in June, visitors from South Korea led the count with 545,100, Taiwan followed with 389,000 and the U.S., 226,800.

With airlines increasing direct flights, the visitor counts from the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Philippines exceeded their June 2019 levels.

However, visitors from China, the largest source of tourism to Japan prior to the pandemic, remained at 208,500. Restrictions by the Chinese government on the sale of group travel packages to Japan have contributed to the sluggish growth.

Visitors spent $8.4 billion in the April-June 2023 period, or 95.1% of spending during the same period in 2019, according to a Japan Tourism Agency survey of consumption trends among foreign visitors to Japan released in July.

The average number of overnight stays increased by two nights to 10 nights, and per-capita travel expenditures increased by 32% to $1,434.

“The number of visitors to Japan is expected to continue to recover, and spending will rebound significantly, driven by the weak yen and ‘revenge spending,’” said Masato Koike, a chief researcher at the think tank Sompo Institute, referring to the spike in leisure spending following the pandemic.

Hotel occupancy rates also continue to recover. The Palace Hotel Tokyo in Chiyoda ward reported an occupancy rate of 70.1% in June, an improvement of more than 30 percentage points from the same month a year ago. Nearly 70% of its guests were foreign visitors, an increase to 2019 levels, according to the hotel.

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