Japan tourism continues to suffer from trade war with South Korea and corona virus threat

Published on : Tuesday, February 11, 2020

For Japan, the last decade exhibited a period of remarkable growth for tourism to Japan. The number of people visiting Japan increased from just 6.2 million people in 2011 to 31.2 million in 2018, which is a faster rate of growth over that period compared to any other major tourism destination. The relaxation of visa requirements, particularly for Chinese citizens, and a drop in the value of the yen made Japan an attractive destination.


However, after years of dramatic growth, Japan’s tourism numbers plateaued from 2018 to 2019. The stagnation was mainly due to a decline in South Korean visitors. Tourists from other major sources of visitors like China, Taiwan, and the US continued to climb. The drop in South Korean tourists was due to a trade war between Japan and South Korea.


The trade war began in July 2019, with the Japanese government restricting the export of chemical materials to South Korea that are important to the South Korean consumer electronics industry. The tensions between the two countries continued throughout the second half of 2019. In late July, South Koreans started boycotting Japanese products and cancelling visits to Japan. This had a huge impact on Japanese tourism. Japanese tourism to South Korea also dropped down, but to a lesser extent.


Japan’s tourism industry is not likely to rebound this year even though Tokyo looks forward to receive a boost from hosting the Olympics, due to a new threat amid the continuing trade dispute with South Korea. The corona virus emerging from China, and which has spread to around 30 countries, could crush Japan’s aim of hosting 40 million visitors in 2020. China, which is the biggest source of tourists to Japan, banned group outward travel in January and flights between Japan and China are sharply down. Hence, Japan’s tourism industry is likely to suffer.


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