To further economic growth, the country has strongly focused on inbound tourism for the past years, such as the easing of travel visa requirements on various countries or creating more airport landing slots and easier hotel billing codes. Consequently, the number foreign nationals entering the country with a temporary visitor visa continuously exceeded record highs for five consecutive years.
Together with the exposure to Japanese cultural peculiarities on social media and the international travel boom, Japan has become more and more popular among visitors from overseas. And despite the prominence of domestic tourism in the industry, Japan was one of the ten leading countries worldwide, based on international tourism receipts.
Although the hotel industry highly benefits from the tourist influx and lodging facilities in popular regions enjoy high occupancy rates, with Japanese style inns (ryokan) being slowly revitalized by the growing rate of booked rooms, the rising number of visitors also creates problems: intense traffic and overcrowded trains and buses, residents complaining about noise or foreign nationals failing to abide by the local customs (e.g. waste disposal) are just a few challenges the government has to find feasible solutions for. Moreover, accommodations at major tourist destinations, such as Tokyo and Osaka, are often close to fully booked. Additionally, municipalities and cities not yet as popular among visitors, but having the capacity to accommodate more people, have already taken initiatives to attract more travelers from overseas.
However, with the outbreak of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the industry and its related sectors were facing a challenge posed by closed borders and limited travel activities. For consecutive weeks, air travel sales recorded a drop of over 90 percent in comparison to transactions handled in the previous year. To cushion losses and reinvigorate the industry, the Japanese government announced a campaign to partially subsidize costs of domestic travels. Consequently, domestic tourism will remain essential for sustaining the industry.