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Friday, 13th March 2015
In Japan Travel News,

A cheap yen and investment - foreign tourists flocking to Japan

With just under 2,000 days to go until Tokyo opens its doors to the world for the 2020 Olympics, it seems as though the country's tourism industry is already booming, according to research by investment bank Societe Generale. And as the yen continues to cheapen and fears around Fukushima ease, it seems as though more and more international travellers are eager to explore the magical and illusive Oriental world of Japan.

What do the numbers say?

It is impressive when you consider that between 2011 and 2014 foreign arrivals have more than doubled, rising from 6.22 million to 13.41 million. Much of this boost has come from a rise of 3.4 million tourists that came from Asia alone. And all of this correlates with a series of policies from PM Shinzo Abe, who became prime minister in 2012, which have seen the Bank of Japan's quantitative easing scheme and easier fiscal policy.

These economic moves have weakened the Japanese yen, making the country an overall cheaper destination for tourists. Since December 2012, the US dollar alone has risen by 47 per cent in value, and with the Chinese yuan being closely pegged with the dollar, the Chinese travellers are also reaping the benefits of a weak yen and flocking to Japan for their holidays. This further is in conjunction with the rise in number of middle-class Chinese families that now have the money to travel and are looking to broaden their horizons.

Furthermore, it's not just visitor numbers. Spending by tourists has also increased by a staggering 150 per cent from 2011 to 2014, with 2,030 billion yen being forked out by visitors in 2014 alone. The report by Societe Generale now states that the potential growth rate for tourism will jump from the current 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent by 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Eased worries

Beyond the economics, tourists have generally found themselves be more comfortable visiting Japan due to the easing of two concerns: visas and Fukushima. The Japanese Embassy in China recently announced that it has released an all-time high of 250,000 visas in January 2015, following the simplification of visa application requirements. The Japanese government has extended the validity of its multiple-entry visas for high-income Chinese tourists from three to five years, offering them unrestricted travel throughout the country.

Speaking to Beijing Today, Hideki Ijichi, chief representative of the Japan National Tourism Organisation’s (JNTO) Beijing office, said: “The new visa policy allows more Chinese to visit Japan without restrictions. With multiple-entry visas, they can start an independent tour whenever they want, enjoy delicious cuisine, go on shopping sprees and enjoy its famous hot springs."

A recent survey by the Beijing Daily has even suggested that with 60 per cent of the Chinese who are planning to travel during Spring Festival will do it abroad, one of the top destinations is Japan.

Another major concern among the travelling community has been the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster that took place in March 2011. The JNTO has since been quick to state that the stigma from the accident has dropped significantly. JNTO official Mamoru Kobori added: "We have said many times that radiation levels are absolutely insignificant in Tokyo and the main tourist areas. People understand that travelling, eating and living here don’t pose a problem, as long as you avoid the restricted area around the Fukushima nuclear plant.”

As Japan gears itself up for the Olympics, with booming building permit applications and expectations that there should be an extra 10,000 hotel rooms in just Tokyo by 2020, the only way is up for this nation. Japan is ready to prove itself on the international stage - is it time for you to finally check out the hype?