THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
December 22, 2022 at 17:49 JST
Nanzenji temple is filled with tourists in Kyoto on Nov. 18 at the peak of the season to see the autumn foliage. (Shinichi Kawarada)
With the scrapping of most COVID-19 entry restrictions in October, the number of foreign visitors to Japan jumped to nearly 1 million in November, according to government data.
The number was about 1.9 times more than the previous month.
Around 730,000 of the 934,500 people who arrived from overseas in November were tourists.
The figure was about 2.5 times higher than October, according to preliminary figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organization on Dec. 21.
Visitors from South Korea were the largest at 315,400, accounting for one-third of all foreign arrivals. The number is about 1.5 times the figure in November 2019 before the pandemic.
That was followed by Taiwan at 99,500, the United States at 84,300 and Hong Kong at 83,000, according to the tourism organization.
The overall number of foreign visitors in November, however, represents only a little less than 40 percent of the 2,441,274 arrivals in Japan in the same month in 2019.
Tourists have returned in large numbers to take advantage of the weakening yen. But visitors from China who previously numbered the highest to Japan have not yet returned as the nation only recently relaxed its "COVID-zero" policy restrictions.
Travel demand is growing while the number of international flights to and from Japan remains low. Supply is not keeping up with the demand.
On the other hand, recovery in the number of Japanese traveling overseas is slow.
The number of Japanese who went overseas in November totaled 379,200, only 20 percent compared to the same month in 2019. The number has remained at the 300,000 level for four months even after the easing of border restrictions in October.
One of the factors is the high cost of fuel surcharges that have been added to international airfares. From October to November, All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. raised their fuel surcharges to record highs amid soaring crude oil prices.
The surcharge was set at around 60,000 yen ($455) for a flight from Japan to North America or Europe. Although it fell below 50,000 yen from December, it is likely to remain high for the time being.
The weak yen is another factor. According to travel operator HIS Co., the average price that one person will spend on overseas travel during the year-end and New Year holidays is 196,700 yen, around 30 percent higher than a year ago.
“There are hurdles to overseas travel both psychologically and economically,” an HIS staffer said.
Meanwhile, more Japanese seem to prefer luxury destinations in their domestic travels.
Seibu Prince Hotels Worldwide Inc. said high-priced hotels in central Tokyo, Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture and Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture are becoming popular. Even rooms priced at 370,000 yen or more per night are fully booked for the upcoming holiday season, the company said.
According to research firm Intage Inc., the average cost for domestic travel and trips to return home during the period will be 35,400 yen per person, 1.2 times that of the previous year.
(This article was written by Go Takahashi and Shinya Matsumoto.)
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