The number of Southeast Asian tourists visiting Japan, as well as their spending, has been on the rise. Thai tourists to Japan topped 1 million in 2018, while Vietnamese and Filipino tourists also registered high numbers.
In the coming years, more Southeast Asian countries will hit a level of economic development that will leave their citizens with more discretionary income to travel, which will help Japan towards its goal of reaching 60 million tourists by year 2030. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of tourists from Thailand reached 1.13 million in 2018, joining other countries and territories in the “1 million club” like South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States of America.
While visitors from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong accounted for 73% of the total number of tourists, those from Southeast Asia increased at steep rates from the previous year — 26% for Vietnamese and 19% for Filipinos.Outbound tourism from a country takes a leap when its per capita gross domestic product vaults over the $5,000 a year threshold, according to a report by Mizuho Bank.The number of Chinese outbound tourists increased eightfold after its per capita GDP passed the $5,000 marker, well above the 70% growth it recorded from 2004-2011.
As for Thailand, the number of Thai visitors to Japan had hovered around 100,000 per year in the six years through 2009, but when GDP rose above $5,000 per capita in 2010, the figure jumped past 1 million in less than 10 years after 2010. Another contributing factor could be the fact that Japan began waiving strict visa requirements in 2013.
In the next 10 years, three other Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, are expected to either join Thailand and Singapore in the $5,000 per capita promised land or at least approach the border.