With the number of visitors to Japan and related spending at record highs, tourism authorities hope to keep the good times rolling by zeroing in on those from high-spending countries.
A whopping 31.192 million people came to Japan last year and spent a total of 4.5 trillion yen ($41.3 billion), according to preliminary data from the tourism ministry and the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA).
As impressive as the numbers are, the spending amount remains far short of the government's ambitious goal of 8 trillion yen for 2020.
"We're closing in on the government’s goal of 40 million (foreign visitors in 2020)," said JTA Commissioner Hiroshi Tabata. "But the fact is, increasing the amount of spending has been tough-going."
In 2018, the average amount spent by visitors from abroad was 153,000 yen. Average spending by Australian and U.S. visitors was 242,000 yen and 191,000 yen, respectively. Spanish visitors spent 237,000 yen, while Italian visitors forked out 224,000 yen.
Among those from Asian countries, Chinese visitors, who are said to enjoy shopping sprees, spent an average of 224,000 yen.
Meanwhile, the wallets of South Korean visitors were lightened by just 78,000 yen per person on average.
The corresponding figures were also below the 153,000 yen for many other Asian countries.
The JTA has been aiming to attract more overseas visitors from specific regions, as their spending per person is relatively high.
"Tourists from Europe, the United States and Australia stay longer and spend more. We want to put on campaigns in such regions to raise Japan's recognition," Tabata said.
As the survey method for the spending figures changed from the 2018 version, it is difficult to make a simple comparison of the year-on-year figures.
Still, the difficulties in accelerating tourism-related spending is attributable to the fact that many foreign visitors last year were cruise ship passengers, whose amount of spending in Japan is relatively small.
To realize the government's goal of 40 million visitors spending a total of 8 trillion yen, each visitor would have to spend an average of 200,000 yen.
Meanwhile, the number of people who traveled from Japan to overseas countries in 2018 stood at 18.954 million, up 6.0 percent from the previous year, marking a record high for the first time in six years.
The rise is partly attributable to an increase in the number of available flights.
As part of efforts to increase the number of young people traveling to foreign countries, the JTA plans to hold a meeting with representatives from the travel and airline industries on Jan. 24.