Japan has attracted more tourists in 2014 with a record-breaking 13 million visitors – a 30 per cent increase from 2012.
Latest figures also showed that there were a record 1.22 million visitors to the country for the month of January, a 29 per cent increase year-on-year.
The easing of visa requirements into Japan has made it easier for people from neighbouring countries to enter the country.
The top arrivals were from Taiwan and South Korea, while the biggest increase in numbers last year was from China, an 83 per cent jump in visitors from 2013.
One of Japan’s main strategies to boost visitor arrivals is promoting its pop culture, while food is another major draw for many who have discovered dishes such as sushi and ramen in their own countries.
But experts have questioned whether Japan’s target of 20 million annual foreign arrivals by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is achievable, given the perceived inefficiencies in the tourism sector.
“The lack of hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and in the big cities is what we feel needs to be addressed at this moment,” said Tomoe Suzuki, Sales Manager at JTB Global Marketing & Travel
“First we need more flights. Are there enough seats? Is there space at airports for more departures and arrivals? We need to make more free Wi-Fi available. We need multilingual signboards; first in English, Chinese and Korean. Do we have meals that can be served to Muslims? How about space for prayers?” said Tetsuya Mori, the Deputy Director of Tourism Strategy for the Japan Tourism Agency.
Japan’s tourism figures still fall well behind the number one location for travellers in the world – France whose annual visitors number more than 83 million.