The estimated total number of hotel stays by foreign visitors to Japan rose 8 percent from the previous year to a record 70.88 million in 2016 amid the government's efforts to attract more foreign tourists as part of its growth strategy, the Japan Tourism Agency said Friday.
Foreign visitors' hotel stays accounted for 14.3 percent of the total of 494.18 million which includes those by Japanese guests in the reporting year, up from 13.1 percent in 2015.
The preliminary figures come at a time the Japanese government is aiming to attract 40 million foreign tourists in 2020, up from a record 24.04 million in 2016, as part of efforts to shore up the domestic economy.
Foreign tourists' stays in places outside the country's three major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka showed solid growth in particular with a rise of 13.2 percent in 2016, compared with a 4.8 percent increase in the three metro areas.
Overseas travelers are apparently becoming more interested in experiencing rural culture, food and environment than shopping in the big cities.
The pace of rise in number of foreign visitors to Japan has been so fast in recent years that hotels in major cities have been unable to offer enough accommodations to meet demand.
The 8 percent rise in hotel stays in 2016 was much slower than 48.1 percent growth in 2015. It is also smaller than a 21.8 percent jump in the number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2016.
If the number of foreign visitors exceeds 40 million in 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are held, the agency estimates some 50,000 additional rooms will be needed across the country.
The slower hotel-stay growth partly reflects increasing demand for the "minpaku" system of offering paid accommodations in private homes. Cruise ships have also recently been used as accommodation facilities.
By prefecture in terms of foreigners' hotel stays, Tokyo ranked top with 18.06 million, followed by Osaka with 10.26 million and Hokkaido with 6.92 million, according to the agency.