Cherry blossoms to cheap yen spur record tourist visits to Japan

Japan hosted a record number of tourists in March as the country’s early start to cherry blossom season and a weakening yen drew in holidaymakers.

Visitors totaled 3.1 million in March, up almost 70% from a year earlier, and led by South Korea, Taiwan and China, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Tourist numbers from 17 markets reached a record for March, including the US, Vietnam and India.

Japan has been a popular travel destination for many Asian tourists looking to shake off years of pandemic-era controls. The cherry blossom season, which historically sees trees bloom around late-March, is a popular time to visit for many people and this year coincided with Easter holidays.

The extended slump in the yen, now trading near a 34-year low against the dollar, has also helped attract visitors while simultaneously hurting outbound travel demand for Japanese. 

The figures also show the uneven pace of recovery for outbound Chinese tourism. While they’re the third-biggest group of visitors to Japan, with a near six-fold growth in March from a year earlier, the number of arrivals from China still remains below pre-Covid levels.

Foreign visitors to Japan spent 1.75 trillion yen ($11.3 billion) in the January to March period, an increase of 52% from 2019, according to data from the Japan Tourist Agency. –BLOOMBERG