November was the first full month since the nation lifted COVID-19 restrictions that practically froze tourism for more than two years, according to statistics released on Wednesday, December 21st. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the number of international tourists and business travelers visiting Japan increased to 934,500 in November, almost doubling from October. Nonetheless, 2019 arrivals were roughly two-thirds lower than pre-pandemic levels.
“The demand for Japan out of North America is very strong right now,” said Virgilio Russi, vice president of international sales for Air Canada
Passenger demand from Canada to Japan is more than twice what it was in 2019, according to Russi, who cited a shift away from China among business travelers and vacationers taking advantage of the yen’s present weakness.
“From a cost perspective, Japan is quite reasonable right now,” he said.
While the yen has strengthened this week due to an unexpected policy shift by the Bank of Japan, it is 13% lower than the U.S. dollar so far. Even if China has started to relax its zero-COVID policy, observers do not anticipate the reopening of its borders before March or April.
JNTO statistics show that 2.46 million tourists had come to Japan so far this year. This is a fraction of the record 31.8 million in 2019 and the government’s initial 2020 target of 40 million, intended to coincide with the postponed Tokyo Olympics owing to the pandemic.