Perhaps one of the mild surprises among international tour and travel industry analysts over the past two to three years has been the recovery of the U.S. inbound market from Japan, which ceded its place as the Number One overseas source market for inbound tourism to the UK in 2001 and has remained Number Two ever since then.
Absent other dynamic factors (i.e., economic), it has been generally acknowledged that the Japanese market will remain a no-growth to flat-growth market because its near-zero birth rate has created a smaller source market of travelers in key demographic groups. And those who do travel have already begun to consider the U.S. a mature destination, one that does not attract as many repeat visitors as it should have.
However, Japan’s economy—the third largest national economy in the world—has been healthy of late and consumer spending has also been healthy, while the Japanese Yen has remained stable vs. the U.S. dollar (see table below—it is almost the same as it was in 2015) even as factors such as the U.S.-China trade war and instability in different areas of the world threaten national economies.
In its latest long-term forecast for the top international tourism source markets, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), which tends to be a bit on the conservative side in its prognostications, has total inbound traffic to the U.S. from Japan increasing at a small but certain rate through 2024. If the 2024 figure is indeed achieved, it would be the highest yearly total of Japanese visitors to the United States since 2001.
The other data set from NTTO which has caused mild optimism in the inbound tour and travel industry in the U.S. are the most recent numbers from this year.