Japan overtakes Thailand as top China destination

During China’s early October Golden Week holiday, Japan overtook Thailand for the first time as mainland Chinese tourists’ top overseas destination.

In part this was due to a nearly 9 percent decline in Chinese tourism to Thailand in the wake of a July tour boat disaster in which dozens of Chinese visitors died, but it also may herald a new reality in which Chinese choose Japan over any other overseas destination as a matter of course.

China’s top online travel agency Ctrip stated in a recent report that the number of Chinese tourists to Japan this year is likely to be north of 8 million people for the first time. These Chinese tourists will likely spend the equivalent of more than $14 billion in Japan this year.

According to the Ctrip report, “Shopping was the major focus of these tourists, but now they are paying more attention to local food and traditional culture.”

Japanese firms are also making an effort to boost Chinese tourist spending further. This week, for example, that Japanese messaging app LINE is teaming up with Tencent’s WeChat to offer a new mobile payment system in Japan (LINE Pay). This follows a similar move in September that saw a mobile payment service created by the alliance of SoftBank, Yahoo Japan, and Alipay (PayPay).