Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — The number of visitors to Japan in 2016 jumped 21.8 percent from the previous year to an estimated 24,039,000, renewing its record high for the fourth successive year, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii said Tuesday.
The growth was led by visitors from China, South Korea and Taiwan.
An increase in the number of air routes to Japan, including those operated by budget airlines, and the relaxation of visa requirements contributed to the record-breaking travel demand, officials said.
The Japanese government targets 40 million foreign visitors in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“If the annual number grows 15 percent every year from 2015, we can achieve the target,” Ishii said.
The new record is “the result of drastic measures we have implemented in succession, including the loosening of visa requirements and the expansion of consumption tax exemption,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a separate press conference.
The tourism minister’s announcement came ahead of the official release of estimated annual visitor numbers in 2016 by the Japan National Tourism Organization, scheduled for Jan. 17.