top of page

Overview of the Japanese Government's Tourism Policy for Foreign Tourists

by Hirokazu Nishikawa

1. History of the Japanese Government’s Tourism Policy

The Japanese government's tourism policy began in earnest in 2003. In January of that year, the then prime minister set a goal of doubling the number of foreign visitors to Japan by 2010 from the approximately 5 million at that time, followed by the launch of the “Visit Japan Campaign” by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in April of the same year to strategically promote the Japanese brand overseas.

The reason behind these moves by the government was that since 1964, when overseas tourism was liberalized, the number of Japanese tourists traveling abroad increased due to the strong yen and rising national income, while at the same time witnessing a significant gap between the number of Japanese tourists traveling abroad and that of foreign tourists visiting Japan. It is conceivable that the current situation is far from reaching the policy goal of the time, which was to "improve the international balance of cashflow and promote economic and cultural exchange with foreign countries.”

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been steadily increasing since 2003. In 2008 the Japan Tourism Agency was newly established as a bureau under MLIT, and in 2016 the government set a goal of achieving 40 million foreign visitors to Japan annually by 2020, further strengthening the system to achieve the aim of becoming a tourism-oriented country.

In 2019, Japan was ranked 12th (3rd in Asia) in terms of the number of incoming foreign tourists (31.88 million), increasing its popularity as a tourist country and steadily growing its visitor numbers, but due to the coronavirus, was forced to significantly decrease its numbers the following year.

2.Outline of the Japanese Government's Tourism Policy for Foreign Tourists (Introduction of the FY2022 Budget Request)

Since the spread of the COVID-19 virus, domestic and international tourism demand has decreased significantly, and the tourism industry has been severely affected. Against this backdrop, I would like to introduce some of the major policies aimed at improving the environment for and the gradual revival of inbound tourism within the budget outlined for the next fiscal year by the Japan Travel Agency, as follows.

Emergency Project for Improving the Environment for Foreign Visitors Traveling to Japan

In order to create an environment in which foreign visitors traveling to Japan can fully enjoy their trip in a stress-free and comfortable manner at tourist spots, accommodation facilities, and public transportation, and to create a safe and secure travel environment in case of emergencies such as disasters, the following measures will be supported: enhancement of multilingual tourist information provisions, development of free Wi-Fi services, dissemination of cashless transactions, promotion of barrier-free environments for disability accessibility, improvement of countermeasures against the COVID-19 virus, and strengthening of multilingual responses in case of emergencies.

(Some examples of measures)

  • Utilizing a contactless check-in system using Digital Transformation

  • Signage in multiple languages

  • Free Wi-Fi in transportation facilities and vehicles

Image Source: Japan Tourism Agency

Sustainable Tourism Promotion Project

As the interest in sustainable tourism* is increasing worldwide, Japan will promote it, as well as addressing overtourism and carbon neutrality, by establishing a management system that can be used as a model across other regions in order to become the tourist destination of choice for travelers around the world.

(*) The World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) definition of sustainable tourism: tourism that fully considers current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts while responding to the needs of visitors, industries, the environment, and the communities that host them.

As an example of efforts, by implementing the Japan Sustainable Tourism Standard for Destinations (JSTS-D), a best-practice for sustainable tourism destination management has been developed and is being implemented nationwide.

(Examples of overtourism in each region)

  • Crowded and congested tourist spots (The two pictures on the left)

  • Residents picking up trash left by tourists / Traffic obstruction in tourist areas (The two pictures on the right)

Image Source: Japan Tourism Agency

(The Role of these Guidelines)

  • Use as a Self-Assessment Tool: a guideline for tourism policy making and tourism planning

  • Use as a Communication Tool: an opportunity for the community to work together to create a sustainable region and tourist destination

  • Use as a Promotional Tool: branding as a tourist destination and improving international competitiveness

Implementation of Strategic Promotion for Foreign Tourists

Focusing on a post-COVID-19 virus future, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) will work on strategic promotion for inbound tourism to Japan in order for it to easily recovery, increase travel spending, and attract more visitors to regional areas. By doing these, Japan aims to achieve its goals of 60 million foreign visitors and 15 trillion yen in foreign travel spending by 2030. In particular, the following five measures will be taken.

1. Implementing promotions to stimulate the desire to revisit Japan among repeat visitors

A large-scale campaign to stimulate the desire to revisit Japan will be conducted for repeat travelers in the Asian market, who are expected to resume visiting Japan at an early stage. In addition, JNTO will promote an increase in consumption by strengthening the dissemination of experiential tourism in local areas.

2. Strengthening promotions based on changes in demand due to Covid

Promotions of experiences that are expected to have increased demand in the post- COVID-19 virus era, such as sports and adventure tourism, will be fortified to take into consideration local lifestyles and nature.

3. Thoroughly utilizing market-specific strategies based by country

In order to strategically attract visitors from key markets to Japan, JNTO will accurately grasp the trends in each and conduct detailed promotions based on market-specific strategies. Specifically, in the Asian sector, since Japan is already well known as a travel destination, detailed promotions tailored to individual travel demands will be implemented. For the European, U.S. and Australian markets, the promotion will focus on appealing to interests such as attractive activities.

4. Bolstering dissemination of regional tourism offerings

Consultations will be made to improve the quality of local attractions to meet post- COVID-19 demands and to advertise these regional offerings according to the needs of each market in order to interest tourists.

5. Strengthening digital marketing

The foundations of digital marketing will be strengthened through collecting and analyzing the information obtained by foreign tourists from websites, etc. to effectively develop promotions.

3. Summary

The initiatives introduced in the previous section are only a small part of the budgeted projects scheduled for the next fiscal year. The overall basic policy for next year's budget is to do its utmost to maintain employment and continue business operations, and to provide support for thorough measures that prevent the spread of infection.

At the same time, the government will revitalize tourist attractions by renewing accommodation facilities and removing abandoned buildings, refine local tourism resources through cooperation with various stakeholders, and stimulate travel demand by supporting local tourism businesses. In the next fiscal year, it is necessary to realize a full-scale recovery of tourism that supports the local economy with an eye on the time post-COVID-19 virus, while taking all possible measures to ensure the survival of tourism areas and industries that are in danger. In addition, promotion of these efforts will continue, as well as those to increase the number of mid- to long-term visitors and repeat visitors, and content that will become the signature products of profitable regions will be created.

In addition, necessary measures to cope with the COVID-19 virus will be considered in the budgeting process, taking into account the future infection situation and trends in tourism demand. The Go To campaign promoting domestic tourism, which was introduced in this journal last year, is not being considered in the initial budget for the next fiscal year, at least at this point. To read last year's article, please click here: JITTI Journal- November 2020 Feature Article.


  • Efforts and Challenges toward the Realization of a Tourism-oriented Nation Microsoft Word - 20130701048.docx (

  • A Study on the Changes in Japan's Inbound Tourism Policy

    268407547.pdf (

  • Japan Tourism Agency

    訪日外国人旅行者数・出国日本人数 | 統計情報 | 統計情報・白書 | 観光庁 (

    スライド 1 (

    ①.表紙・総括表_2ver2 (

Image Sources

Japan Tourism Agency

November 2021

Feature Article

bottom of page