BANGKOK, NNA - The number of Thai travelers to Japan has topped one million this year, making Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to reach that threshold amid Tokyo’s efforts to attract overseas visitors through the relaxation of visa requirements.
The number of visitors from Thailand in the January-November period is estimated at 1,003,800, up 15.2 percent from a year before, according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization, also known as JNTO.
Commemorating the 40th anniversary of friendship and cooperation between Japan and the region in 2013, the Japanese government aimed to leverage the number of visitors from Southeast Asia through the visa deregulation as part of its strategy to stimulate tourism.
Given fast economic growth in the region, travelers to Japan from six Southeast Asian nations -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- surged nearly six-fold from 2011 through 2017.
The combined number of travelers from the six countries this year is likely to reach three million, driven by rapid growth in the number of visitors from the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the data released Wednesday.
The increase in Southeast Asian travelers to Japan is attributed to the rising number of budget flights, Saki Komatsubara, a JNTO statistics official, told NNA.
The number of flights linking Japan to Southeast Asia rose 69 from a year earlier to 791 per week in the summer of 2018, with Thai Airways and Thai Air Asia X increasing their flights to Narita airport, east of Tokyo, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
From 2011 to 2018, low-cost carriers’ flights to Japan soared nearly 20-fold to 1,357 per week, with the vast majority coming from Asia, the ministry said. Of total passenger flights, LCC flights accounted for 27.1 percent of the total.
Japan has already seen over 30 million foreign visitors this year, with China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan accounting for 70 percent of the total. Travelers from Southeast Asia make up about 10 percent.
The number of Chinese travelers, the largest group by country, jumped seven-fold to top seven million from 2011 to 2018.
Japan has set a target of 40 million foreign visitors for 2020 when the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled to take place. (NNA/Kyodo)