Japan’s Travel & Tourism Sector Approaches Pre-Pandemic Levels Amid Prolonged Restrictions

The latest findings from the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR) have revealed that Japan’s Travel & Tourism sector is projected to make a substantial GDP contribution of USD 285.5 billion (JPY 37.6 trillion) in the current year.

According to the WTTC forecast, Japan’s Travel & Tourism sector is only 6.8 percent below the pre-pandemic high of USD 306.5 billion (JPY 40.3 trillion) recorded in 2019. As the year progresses, the sector’s contribution to the total economy is anticipated to reach 6.8 percent, VisaGuide.World reports.

Despite the extended impact of the pandemic into 2023, WTTC predicts creating about 470,000 jobs within the sector this year, resulting in a total workforce of nearly 5.6 million individuals. This indicates that approximately one in twelve workers in Japan are directly or indirectly employed in the Travel & Tourism industry.

Although Japan’s Travel & Tourism sector is still working towards recovering all of its pre-pandemic employment levels, it is projected for the same to remain 5.2 percent below the 2019 figures, which translates to a shortage of approximately 300,000 jobs by the end of this year.

On a positive note, international visitor spending in Japan is expected to experience a remarkable surge of 553.4 percent in the current year, reaching USD 16.8 billion (JPY 2.2 trillion). However, it is essential to note that this figure is still 57.6 percent below the peak recorded in 2019.

Japan’s Travel & Tourism Sector GDP Contribution Surges by 50.5% in Past Year

Last year, Japan’s Travel & Tourism sector saw significant growth, with its GDP contribution increasing by 50.5 percent to surpass USD 257 billion (JPY 33.9 trillion). This substantial growth represented 6.2 percent of the country’s economy.

During the same period, the sector also witnessed an increase compared to the previous year, with the number of jobs reaching nearly 5.1 million nationwide, which means that over one in every 13 jobs in Japan was within the Travel & Tourism sector.

On the other hand, the prolonged impact of travel restrictions resulted in a decline in international visitor spending in Japan in 2022. The fall was more than 31 percent, keeping it 93.5 percent below the levels observed in 2019.

At the same time, domestic visitor spending in Japan experienced robust growth, increasing by 61.6 percent. This growth was substantial, almost reaching the levels recorded in 2019, with only a marginal difference of 0.2 percent behind the pre-pandemic figures.

“International travel will be essential to achieve the long-awaited recovery. We must nurture and support this sector, finding innovative ways to attract visitors and ensure their comfort. By doing so, we boost our economy and support livelihoods and local communities,” WTTC President & CEO Julia Simpson pointed out in this regard.

As the Chairperson of the Board at JTB Corp Hiroyuki Takahashi explains, there is a substantial and increasing global demand to visit Japan. He also stated that in response to this demand, JTB Corp is collaborating with both the public and private sectors to develop new tourism attractions and expand the capacity in rural areas.

“Haneda Airport’s international terminal is on track to surpass 18 million passengers by the end of this year, despite challenges faced. With increased slots and capacity, and anticipated growth in inbound demand, we project exceeding 25 million passengers by 2025,” JAT Chairman and CEO Isao Takashiro also added.

The WTTC reports further reveal that in 2022, the top source markets for international visitors to Japan were as follows:

  • South Korea (24 percent)
  • Mainland China (ten percent)
  • Taiwan, China (ten percent)
  • United States (eight percent)
  • Hong Kong, China (seven percent)

Japan’s Travel & Tourism Sector Set to Boost GDP Contribution by 2033

The global tourism body’s forecast, Japan’s Travel & Tourism sector is expected to expand its GDP contribution to USD 353.4 billion (JPY 46.5 trillion) by 2033. This projected growth signifies an increase to nearly eight percent of Japan’s economy. Additionally, the sector is anticipated to employ approximately 6.7 million people throughout the country, indicating that one in ten Japanese residents will work in the Travel & Tourism sector.

In 2022, the Travel & Tourism sector in the Asia-Pacific region made a significant contribution of USD 1.6 trillion to the regional economy. However, this figure remained 50 percent below the peak recorded in 2019, indicating the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the sector.

According to WTTC’s forecast, the region’s GDP contribution from the Travel & Tourism sector is expected to surpass USD 2.6 trillion in 2023, a 16 percent decrease compared to the pre-pandemic high of 2019.

In terms of employment, the sector employed over 155 million people across the region in 2022, marking an increase of 8.7 million from the previous year. However, this number was still 15 percent below the employment levels before the pandemic. WTTC predicts that the jobs lost during the pandemic will fully recover by the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025.


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