Editorial: Overseas tourists are back—and spending patterns are shifting

January 24 , 2024

According to the Japan Tourism Agency, inbound tourists are on the rise and on a spending spree: More than 25 million visited Japan in 2023, or some 80% of those visiting in pre-pandemic 2019, and they dropped a record-shattering ¥5.29 trillion on the Japanese economy.

Obviously, the yen’s faltering strength has proven to be a major boon. Indeed, the average number of nights spent per person—a reliable measure of tourist spending—rose from 8.8 in 2019 to 10.2 last year. This benchmark supports the belief that tourists are moving away from “buying binges” toward more “experiential” tours that require longer stays. And numerous communities have been responding to this shift, offering a variety of tours that feature accommodation in restored castles to sample the life of samurai-era Japan as well as seasonal packages to enjoy the natural splendors of the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The next evolution in this transition is to direct overseas tourists to communities outside the major cities. That would help inject much-needed capital into rural towns and villages while alleviating the challenge of over-tourism that is becoming problematic for the larger tourist destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

The goal is to channel that demand toward attractive sites around the country by developing and marketing experiential tours that elicit longer stays. The Japanese government is already pushing for such programs, offering up to ¥80 million to such business programs that need to leverage and create content unique to their respective locales.

Local communities, after all, have much to offer, from fascinating histories to mesmerizing natural surroundings, that only need a bit of value-added polish and creativity to market.