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International tourists to Japan are spending more than they did in 2019, according to recent and pre-pandemic analyses, which is welcome news for the Japanese government as it unveils its plan to increase tourism consumption still further.

In an analysis by the Japan Research Institute, which compared overseas visitor consumption in December 2019 and December 2022, spending at theme parks saw the highest uptick (60 per cent), followed by apparel shops (40 per cent) and restaurants (30 per cent).

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Destinations popular with Chinese tourists pre-pandemic have seen a slower recovery in tourism spend

Still, increased spending was not seen across the sector, as department stores saw only 40 per cent of the sales they did in December 2019, thought to be due to the slow return of visitors from China who outshopped other tourists pre-pandemic – their total spend amounted to 39 per cent of all inbound tourism spending in 2019.

The lack of Chinese visitors in December 2022 resulted in mixed spending nationwide, according to the study. Destinations that were particularly popular with Chinese tourists pre-pandemic, including Osaka and Kyoto, have seen a slower recovery in tourism spend than regions that attracted a broader portfolio of countries pre-pandemic.

Still, the government is optimistic that increased spending will continue, and is targeting five trillion yen (US$37.36 billion) of annual spend by foreign tourists as soon as possible, to exceed the 4.8 trillion yen spent in 2019.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has launched a three-year plan to encourage spending of 200,000 yen per capita in 2025, about 41,000 yen more than in 2019.

Tourists will be encouraged to stay in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya at least 1.5 nights by 2025, up from 1.35 nights in 2019, and to travel to more remote parts of the country. Additionally, campaigns will encourage them to incorporate more experiences, such as farming and fishing, into their itineraries.

Officials also hope to attract more wealthy tourists, particularly from Western countries.

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