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Inbound Tourism in Japan: Choose Your Words Carefully

Language choice from an economic perspective

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Inbound Tourism in Japan: Choose Your Words Carefully

An unprecedented boom in foreign visitors is the talk of Japan, and local players are scrambling to court tourists to shop, dine or experience regional attractions. Yet when actually considering a marketing campaign using print or web-based materials for foreign tourists, which languages will find the widest audience?

According to 2017 data from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the following countries ranked the highest in foreign visitors during the previous year: China (7.35 million), South Korea (7.14 million), Taiwan (4.56 million), Hong Kong (2.23 million), the United States (1.38 million), Thailand (990,000) and Australia (490,000). Looking at the languages this trend represents, we see the following order of languages in demand:

  1. Simplified Chinese
  2. Korean
  3. Traditional Chinese
  4. English
  5. Thai

However, which languages actually have the largest economic impact? Detailed data from JNTO shows average travel spend per visitor from each country during their stay in Japan. Analyzing this data independently reveals the following economic ranking for inbound tourists (total visitors to Japan x average spend per visitor):

  1. Simplified Chinese
  2. Traditional Chinese
  3. English
  4. Korean
  5. Thai
Source: Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

By country, average travel spend per visitor ranks as follows: China (230,000 yen), Australia (230,000 yen), the United States (180,000 yen), Hong Kong (150,000 yen), Taiwan (130,000 yen) Thailand (130,000 yen) and Korea (70,000 yen). (Results for Hong Kong have been included in both Traditional Chinese and English results.) Asian visitors make up the majority of total visitor numbers, but Western visitors, including those from the United States and Australia, tend to spend more on average. This, combined with the fact that English is still the nearest thing we have to a ‘global language’, means that English will remain the first choice of localized language for the foreseeable future.

This information allows us to consider which languages provide the most value for inbound marketing campaigns. However, when deciding the language of an inbound promotional campaign, you should also be asking: “What part of Japan are you trying to promote, and to whom?”

If you are looking for the right message to reach a target audience, Modis Design can help. We have been creating inbound marketing content in multiple languages since our founding in 2006. In addition to content development and copywriting, we provide added value to translation, from persuasive copy in print and digital media to spoken language in video narration. If you’re looking for effective promotional tools for the inbound tourism market, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Note: JNTO information for average travel spend per visitor in Japan includes amounts spent on accommodation and travel for package tour participants. However, this does not include money spent on international airfare or ferry fares sold by representative companies.

Source: Average Travel Spending per Foreign Traveler in Japan (2017), JNTO

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