Japan's Tourism Boom Is Generating Demand in Unlikely Places

Twenty million visitors flocked to the country last year

Tourism Boom In Kyoto

A tour guide holds a flag as she leads a Chinese tour group through the famous Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto.

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Japan's tourism boom created a shortage of hotels rooms and made the nation the fastest-growing market for Airbnb.

Japan's Tourism Boom Fuels Airbnb

The rebound in tourism since the 2011 earthquake struck Japan is visible in everything from hotels upgrading their facilities to increasing sales of tour buses and record interest from people trying to become tour guides.

The government expects the trend will continue until the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This is after the number of foreign visitors jumped 47 percent last year to almost 20 million people, and double-digit growth in the previous three years. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies have helped weaken the yen by more than 20 percent against the dollar since he took office in late 2012.

The boom is a bright spot in an economy that's struggling to sustain growth. While tourist snap up everything from cosmetics to condoms, heavy industry and construction are also benefitting.


Japan still has work to do if wants to keep tourists happy. Some 86% of the people who passed the guide-interpreter exam in 2015 were English specialists, while only 4 percent were certified for Chinese.
That's even though 52 percent of visitors were from mainland China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. 

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