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Tourists Bring Japan First Surplus Since 1970: Chart of the Day

Japan tourism boosted by visas, yen

Japan is poised for a record number of foreign visitors in 2014, attracted by a weaker yen and easing of visa rules, with spending by incoming tourists in April exceeding that by Japanese going abroad for the first time in 44 years.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows Japan recorded a net surplus in tourism revenue, a first since 1970, as the yen weakened about 16 percent against the dollar since Shinzo Abe became prime minister in December 2012. The lower panel shows total foreign tourists to Japan and the combined number from nearby Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and China.

Abe’s administration is aiming to more than triple the number of visitors to about 30 million a year by 2030, with an increase in spending to match. The government will loosen visa requirements from nations including Indonesia and Vietnam, and plans to double the number of duty-free stores in the country.

“Income in Asian countries is increasing and is boosting their appetite for leisure and tourism, with Japan a nearby destination,” said Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in Tokyo. “Increasing foreign visitors will help boost retail sales and underpin domestic industries due to demand for domestic goods.”

The number of visitors to Japan in the first five months of the year was a record 5.2 million, with most coming from Taiwan, South Korea and China. JTB Corp., Japan’s biggest travel agency, projects 11.8 million people will travel to the nation in 2014.

The Bank of Japan started an unprecedented easing campaign in April last year to end more than a decade of deflation.

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