Number of Japanese tourists visiting Britain plummets

LONDON — Japan has taken the title of ‘‘fastest declining market’’ for the British tourist industry, according to an analysis of data over the last eight years.


Japan beat the likes of Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia to have the fastest declining market by value, the latest statistics from VisitBritain reveal.

Between 2000 and 2008, the estimated annual value of the Japanese market to the British tourist industry fell by 291 million pounds ($433 million), or by 64%, the biggest percentage decline, although the United States had the biggest fall in absolute value of market by 524 million pounds.

Japan’s decline, from a high of 456 million pounds in 2000 to 165 million pounds for last year, is noticeable because it has been by far the sharpest of the more mature tourism markets.

Visitor numbers from other European countries, such as France and Germany, have remained relatively stable over the last eight years, and the United States has seen a slight decline in visitor numbers. Britain has also seen a steady increase in visitor numbers from China over the last decade.

The decline from Japan was blamed on its dire economic situation and also the increasing tendency for Japanese to visit their Asian neighbours rather than trek all the way to Europe.


Elliott Frisby, press and PR manager at VisitBritain, the main organization to boost tourism, told Kyodo News ‘‘Japan is still an important market for visitors to Britain—last year they spent 165 million pounds on 239,000 trips here, still more than the six other countries where VisitBritain has a presence in Asia (the others being China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand).’’

‘‘Japan’s best year for visits to Britain was back in 1995 with 619,000 visits, and 539 million pound spent and since then we have seen largely decline from this market,’’ he said.

‘‘This is partly due to the economic climate of the 1990s in Japan, which knocked the population’s confidence to the extent that they are more careful how they spend their money today,’’ he added.

He also said, ‘‘More significant is that Britain is competing with the popularity of intra-Asia travel particularly to emerging destinations, like Vietnam, which have similar cultures and more accessible for shorter trips away.’’

France is Britain’s biggest tourism market by volume with 3.6 million visits in 2008 while the United States is the biggest market by value at 2.2 million pounds. Poland is Britain’s fastest growing market between 2000 and 2008, which is probably due to the large-scale immigration of Poles into Britain for work and the growing number of relatives visiting family members here for holiday.


Frisby said it was common for growth from the more established markets to slow as visitors from those countries seek new experiences and destinations.

The figures come from the international passenger surveys and are based on interviews with between 4,000 and 5,000 foreign visitors at airports each month.

By William Hollingworth © 2009 Kyodo News. All rights reserved.

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