Japan welcomes record number of Aussies in December 2023

Full year arrivals on the brink of passing pre-pandemic level

Ginzan Onsen, Tohoku | Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

New figures released by Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) show the number of Australians visiting Japan in 2023 came close to matching levels seen in 2019. Last year, the Aussie visitor number (at 613,100 people) reached 98.6% of pre-pandemic levels, despite the country only fully opening to tourists and offering visa-free travel in October 2022, and scrapping its proof of vaccination requirements in May 2023.

The numbers also highlight a significant growing demand for travel to Japan, with the destination welcoming 23% more Australian visitors in December 2023 (at 89,500 arrivals) compared to December 2019 (when the number was 72,653). Total visitor arrivals in December 2023 were 2.73 million, compared to 2.53 million in 2019.

Australia was the 7th largest source market for overseas visitors to Japan in December (representing 3.3% of total arrivals), bettered only by South Korea (28.5%), Taiwan (14.6%), China (11.4%), Hong Kong (9.2%), USA (6.7%), Thailand (4.6%) and Singapore (4.2%).

December 2023 Visitor Arrivals | Source: Japan National Tourism Organization

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Interest in the 2023/24 winter snow sports season is set to continue to drive visitation into the start of the new year, as well as the popular spring cherry blossom season.

“The pace at which Australians have returned to Japan has heartened us, and we are so pleased to see these numbers bouncing back,” said Naoki Kitazawa, Executive Director, JNTO Sydney Office.

“It confirms what we know – Australians truly love Japan. Australians are warmly welcomed in Japan, and we cannot wait to see what this year brings.”

Japanese Macaque 'snow monkey' in winter | Credit: Vishrut Bajpai/Pexels

Additional airlift from Australia to Japan has also helped fuel the resurgence in visitation, with all major carriers including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airlines (ANA) and Jetstar all either increasing existing route frequency, or adding new routes, including the recently launched Virgin Australia Cairns–Tokyo Haneda service, and the soon-to-launch Jetstar Sydney–Osaka (Kansai International Airport) service.

JNTO is encouraging Australians, particularly repeat visitors, to dig a little deeper into Japan and journey beyond the already popular hotspots, exploring rural and lesser-known destinations, whether it be to hike in one of the many National Parks or experience a traditional temple-stay – among so many other possibilities.

“We hope to see Australians explore Japan responsibly and sustainably, partly to help us avoid over-tourism, but also to discover lesser-known corners,” Kitazawa added.

Geisha | Credit: Satoshi Hirayama/Pexels

“Everyone should make time to explore amazing cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, but we always encourage Australians to venture into the rural and regional areas of Japan which are home to a variety of authentic culinary, outdoor, and cultural experiences,” Kitazawa encouraged.

Just over 25 million tourists visited Japan in 2023, and overall, December 2023 saw the highest-ever volume of tourists for a December period – over 8% higher than the pre-pandemic level seen in December 2019. Australia is one of few long-haul markets around the world to have either closely matched or exceeded pre-pandemic visitor numbers alongside the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East.

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