Japan welcomed a record 31 million foreign visitors in 2018, official data showed Wednesday, as the country gears up to host the Rugby World Cup this year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The world's third-largest economy, also known for its ancient temples and vibrant pop culture, welcomed 31.2 million visitors in 2018, up 8.7 per cent from the previous year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
Fellow Asian countries dominated the inbound tourist figures, with more than eight million Chinese tourists (up 13.9 per cent) and 7.5 million South Koreans (up 5.6 per cent) visiting Japan. Taiwanese tourists were next, accounting for 4.8 million people. Collectively the visitors, which include business people with limited-term stays, spent a record 4.5 trillion yen ($41.5 billion) in Japan, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. Chinese visitors were the biggest spenders, spending a whopping 1.54 trillion yen -- or just more than one-third of total tourism outlay.
Japan is banking on international tourism to help boost its economy, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aiming to attract 40 million tourists by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the summer Olympic Games. The focus on tourism was partly prompted by the country's demographic crisis, as its shrinking population ages and consumption remains chronically weak. The growth in Japan's tourism is also down to an expansion in low-cost carriers and increased cruise ship visits.
(With inputs from agencies.)