Yen Dive Lures Record China Tourists to Japan: Chart of the Day

Chinese tourists are dismissing political tensions and heading to Japan in record numbers to take advantage of a weaker yen and easier visa rules.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the year-on-year growth rates of visitors to Japan since July 2013 from Taiwan, South Korea, China and the U.S., the four largest tourist sources. China overtook all three in July, with the number of travelers reaching an all-time high of 281,309, and has remained in the top spot, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. The lower panel tracks the Chinese yuan’s performance against the yen, Taiwanese dollar and Korean won since last year.

The Chinese travel boom underscores Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to boost his economy by weakening the yen, which has slid the most of Asia’s 11 most-traded currencies against the yuan this year. Anti-Japanese sentiment has faded after protests in 2012 over disputed islands in the East China Sea triggered a plunge in visitors that ended in September 2013.

“The yen dropped significantly, which has been helping a recovery in travel to Japan,” said Zhu Qi, vice general manager at travel agency Shanghai Pacific Holidays. “Importantly, there have been no major political issues between China and Japan recently, so the spotlight has moved to Chinese dealings with the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.”

Abe met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month for the first time since the two took office, heightening speculation the Japanese leader would seek formal talks with President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing that starts this week.

Chinese tourists were the world’s top spenders for a second year in 2013 at $129 billion, according to the World Tourism Organization. Japan changed its visa rules so Chinese individuals could travel outside of group tours in July 2009 and introduced a multi-entry visa for visits to Okinawa in July 2011. The effect of the changes were slow to take hold because of the political tensions, said Ishikawa Isamu, political and economic chief of the Consulate-General of Japan in Shanghai.

— With assistance by Gregory Turk

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