Japan received 1.47 million international visitors in February, according to preliminary data published Wednesday by the Japan National Tourism Organization, encouraging numbers that are largely due to an influx of tourists from Southeast Asian countries.
The figure fell by 22,000 from January, but that was to be expected as February is a shorter month and considered offseason.
But the total still amounted to 57% of visitors in the same month in 2019, before the spread of COVID-19- a slight increase from 56% in January.
South Korea had the most arrivals at 568,000, or 79% of the pre-COVID figure.
Meanwhile, visitors from Vietnam increased 42% from February 2019 to 55,000. Indonesian tourists increased 9% to 26,000, and those from Singapore rose by 4% to 27,000.
Travel from Western countries is increasing as well. Japan received 86,000 visitors from the U.S. and 15,000 from the U.K., or 94% and 66% of February 2019, respectively.
China was the main exception, largely due to protracted border restrictions. Chinese visitors were down 95% at 36,000.
Japanese retailers and service providers have enjoyed a major boost from the return of tourists.
The benefits have also spread to the food industry, which lately has been squeezed by surging materials prices.
Seafood distributor Maruha Nichiro is seeing strong demand for commercial products, as well as wild-caught fish used to make sashimi.
The increase in inbound tourists has increased demand for eating out, said President Masaru Ikemi.
The rebound is only expected to gain momentum after the Japanese government eased restrictions on travelers from China on March 1.
ANA Holdings, the parent of All Nippon Airways, is planning to offer more flights to and from China in response to the change.
In fiscal 2023, we want to ramp service back up to around 60% of pre-COVID levels, ANA Holdings President Koji Shibata said, up from less than 10% currently.
Japan Airlines also plans to gradually offer more flights, including between Haneda Airport in Tokyo and Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
Source: Travel and Tour World