Foreign visitor numbers to Japan slumped at the fastest rate in nearly four decades due to the global downturn, swine flu fears and a strong yen, according to new data released by the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
International visitor numbers to Japan in 2009 fell 18.7 percent to 6.79 million from a record 8.35 million the previous year.
“We believe Japan has a lot to attract foreign tourists, but the year 2009 was hit by the yen’s rise, which made trips to Japan more expensive when the travel industry was reeling from an economic slump,” a JNTO researcher said.
“Scares over the new influenza also contributed to the drop,” he said.
The fall was the heaviest since 1971, when arrivals dropped 22.7 percent from the previous year when an international exposition was held in Osaka, the JNTO said.
However Japan’s new centre-left government, which took power last summer, has earmarked its aim to support the growth of tourism through public-private partnerships.
Foreign visitor numbers to Japan had increased over the past few decades, from 2.84 million in 1989 to 4.44 million in 1999.
The country’s largest market is South Korea, followed by Taiwan and China.
But last year, the South Korea market plummeted 33.4 percent to 1.59 million.
Arrivals from Taiwan fell 26.3 percent to 1.02 million, but those from mainland China rose 0.6 percent to a record one million.