Is Japan the next development boom? Numbers sure don't lie. Last week, government data showed that a record 11.25 million tourists visited Japan last year, up 22.7 percent from a year earlier. Why the boost? Analysts say a combination of factors are involved, including a weaker yen, cheaper air fares, less strict visa requirements in the region and an overall boost to Asia-Pacific tourism, which has seen tourist visits double since 2,000.
Hoteliers are taking note. For one, Red Planet Hotels, the major shareholder of budget brand Tune Hotels. It's CEO told CNBC it plans to open up 20 hotels by 2020 in Japan to benefit from this growing trend.
"There's a lot of tourism now being encouraged into Japan and we're going to use the familiarity of the Tune concept to attract those international visitors," Tim Hansing, CEO of Red Planet Hotels, said.
CNBC writes that Japan's "spike in tourism numbers coincides with policy makers' most aggressive attempt to drag the economy out of prolonged deflation in decades." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's radical economic policies, introduced in late 2012, helped power the country's stock market nearly 60 percent higher over the course of 2013, while the currency has depreciated 18 percent against the dollar in the same period.
And the boom is likely to continue, making it less risky for hoteliers to develop projects in the country. According to U.K.-headquartered research house Capital Economics, Japan's tourism boom is likely to continue in the coming years. "As with many sectors in Japan's economy, there is no sign of looming capacity constraints that might prompt a strong pick-up in hotel construction," Marcel Thieliant, Japan economist at the firm, told CNBC.
One of the newest hotels to open is the Tokyo Marriott Hotel (pictured), Marriott International's 12th hotel in Japan, and the third under its flagship Marriott Hotels brand.
The company said the opening allows Marriott to "meet the growing demand for quality hospitality experiences in the country ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games - as well as UNESCO’s imminent announcement, expected early this month, recognising Japanese cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage."
Of the 11.25 million tourists that visited Japan in 2013, an estimated 2.31 million were from South Korea, the biggest market. This was followed by 2.16 million Taiwanese, which showed a year-on-year jump of a robust 51.5 percent.
The number of tourists from China, the third-largest market, declined 6.4 percent to 983,270.