Author: Yoko Konishi, Senior Fellow, RIETI
Locations of overnight stays for foreign tourists in Japan in recent years have been concentrated in major cities in the Kanto and Kansai regions that form the so-called golden route. However, due to an increase in repeat visitors and the diversification of information sources, including social network sites (SNS), we have recently observed the dispersion of the flow of tourists and an increase in the number of tourists to regions which were previously not frequented by tourists. It has also become clear that the number of foreign tourists is increasing in regions that are not perceived by Japanese people to be popular tourist destinations. Of course, some regions popular among Japanese tourists are also favored by foreign tourists.Kyoto Prefecture is being shunned by domestic tourists who want to avoid the congestion resulting from the inbound tourism boom, resulting in a decline in the number of tourists who stay overnight. Congestion is one of the negative effects of an increase in tourists. A desirable scenario is that regions not frequented by domestic tourists will attract attention from foreign tourists as new tourist destinations, resulting in the diversification of locations for overnight stays and easing of congestion. If a virtuous cycle starts, with new tourist sites discovered by foreign tourists growing further and attracting domestic tourists, then tourism will become a major local industry. In 2011, foreign tourists accounted for only 5% of the total number of overnight-stay tourists, but their share is more than tripled to 17% in 2017. If the number of foreign tourists continues to increase and if they continue to search for new places to visit, new tourist spots could be created in Japan and tourism could become a lively industry in more prefectures, widening the range of tourism options for domestic Japanese tourists as well. I would be most pleased to see that scenario being realized.