The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed that Japan’s travel and tourism sector could reach near pre-pandemic levels next year.

The forecast from WTTC’s Economic Impact Report (EIR) shows the sector’s contribution to Japan’s GDP could reach nearly ¥40 trillion by the end of 2023, 2.2 per cent below 2019 levels.

The sector’s contribution to GDP fell to 3.5 per cent (¥18.4 trillion) in 2020, which represented a 54.8 per cent loss from 2019.

Over the next ten years, Travel and Tourism’s GDP is expected to grow at an average of 2.6 per cent annually, more than three times the 0.7 per cent growth rate for the country’s overall economy, to reach more than ¥46.7 trillion (7.8 per cent of the total economy).

The data also reveals that employment will surpass pre-pandemic levels to reach more than 5.8 million employed by the end of the year, and more than 6.2 million  by the end of 2032.

Japan reopened to tourists in June though there are still strict restrictions in place, including the requirement for travellers to be part of a package tour, purchase of medical insurance and the wearing of masks in all public places.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO, said:

“After the pain suffered by Japan’s Travel & Tourism, the outlook for the future is much brighter. Following two years of restrictions to mobility, which damaged the sector, there are reasons for optimism as the sector is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“But there is still work to be done. Removing testing and facilitating international travel will further boost the sector’s growth and fast-track the recovery.”

The global tourism body’s latest report also reveals that 2021 marked the beginning of the recovery for Japan’s travel and tourism sector. It stated that the contribution to the economy and employment “could have been higher” if Omicron had not led to the reinstatement of travel restrictions.