UK tops EU nations in tourist spend in Japan

Written by Sanae Samata
January 24, 2020


Written by Sanae Samata
January 24, 2020

British visitors to Japan in 2019 were among the biggest spenders of all international tourists, splashing out more cash per person than any other European nation, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. The data from the department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism strengthens the UK position as one of the most vital tourism markets for the country financially.

With British tourists bringing in ¥100 billion in 2019, the UK was the only country in Europe to make the top 10 for expenditure, ranking eighth.

Unsurprisingly, Japan’s neighbours led the table, with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong taking the top four spots. The United States was fifth, followed by Thailand and Australia. Vietnam and Singapore, meanwhile, trailed the UK in ninth and tenth place respectively.

Yet, British tourists were the second-highest spenders, at ¥241,530 per person, beaten only by Australian tourists, who spend ¥249,128 per person. France, Spain and China completed the top five for expenditure per international tourist.

For both hotel and food expenditure, the UK ranked first, with the average British tourist spending ¥103,363 per person on accommodation and ¥62,180 per person on eating. British tourists also stayed in Japan the third longest of all tourists, at 12 nights, after France (17.1 nights) and Australia (12.8 nights).

The boom in spending is part of an overall trend. In 2019, spending by international tourists in Japan increased by 6.5% year on year to total ¥4.8 trillion, breaking records for the seventh consecutive year.


Boost from Rugby World Cup

Describing the UK tourism market for Japan as “booming,” the Japan National Tourism Organization attributed last year’s record levels of spending to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which ran from September 20 to November 2.

Held at cities across Japan, from Kumamoto in the south to Sapporo in the north, the global sporting event drew tourists off the typical tourist routes. Many attendees from long-haul destinations also extended their stay after the final match to maximise their time in Japan.

“Spend for the northern European markets increased strongly in 2019, largely thanks to the Rugby World Cup which saw visitors travel the length of the country and invest in regional areas and communities that often are missed by long-haul visitors to Japan,” said Matthew Joslin, marking and communications manager, JNTO London.


Predictions for 2020

The spending boom may not continue this year, however, as Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Games may deter international tourists. According to Joslin, the experience of other Olympic and Paralympic hosts during their hosting year has been a dwindling of inbound visitors overall, before a “dramatic increase” the following year.

Still, throughout 2020 the JNTO is continuing to promote winter and autumn travel to Japan overall. Work is also underway to encourage travellers from the UK to check out the lesser-known yet easy-to-reach regions of Japan, specifically, as they will escape the crowds coming for the Games.

One of those chosen is Tohoku, as it will be “a focus for attention as Tokyo 2020 works to celebrate the recovery of the northern region since the 2011 earthquake and disaster,” said Joslin.

Tohoku’s listing as a destination to visit in 2020 by The Guardian, National Geographic and Lonely Planet, is also expected to give the region a boost this year.

Efforts are also continuing to deliver one of the JNTO’s key missions: to attract more international tourists to Japan’s regional gems.

“We in the London office are focusing on key pillars such as wellness, outdoor/adventure, ski and cruise as we use Tokyo 2020 as a platform to showcase the ease of travel outside Japan’s major tourist hotspots and the wealth of authentic experiences available off the beaten track,” said Joslin.