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The number of Japanese travellers to Australia has surged. But it turns out this trend is not unique to Australia. 

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Around the globe, Japanese traveller numbers are up almost 24 per cent since 2015, compared to almost no growth in the previous 15 years.

"The increase in Japanese travellers has not seen uniform rises to most destinations… Australia stands out as one of the destinations benefitting from the resurgence.”

The increase in Japanese travellers has not seen uniform rises to most destinations. Instead, a few countries have seen vast rises in the number of Japanese travellers to their shores relative to the broader trend. Australia stands out as one of the destinations benefitting from the resurgence.

Since 2015, the number of Japanese travellers to Australia has grown by almost 50 per cent. ANZ Research sees two explanations for this: a falling Australian dollar (AUD) against the Japanese Yen (JPY); and an increase in the number of Japanese short-term students who are classified as travellers in the data.

The exchange rate is always an important factor when explaining the changes in tourism and student numbers, and that is the case here.

Since this latest surge in Japanese travellers to Australia began in 2015, the AUD has broadly depreciated against the JPY.

ANZ Research thinks the depreciating currency is the primary driver behind the strong growth in Japanese travellers to Australia.

The last time the AUD saw a large depreciation was during the global financial crisis of 2008, and that was followed by a spike in growth in Japanese travellers. It wasn’t immediate, though, which suggests the currency effect was outweighed by the negative income effect from the GFC.

Two other instances demonstrate when other factors have mattered more than the currency: the 2001 attack on the New York’s World Trade Centre and the 2003 SARS outbreak. In the absence of these types of shocks however, the currency is certainly an important factor in explaining Japanese traveller growth.

Japanese students to Australia have also helped

However, ANZ Research doesn’t think the weaker AUD is the whole story. After declining significantly from 2005 to 2012, the number of Japanese coming to Australia to study has been rising.

That rise, since 2012, corresponds to an overall rise in international students enrolled in Australia. Even so, the rise in Australian enrolments since 2015 has been steeper than in most other nations, even when the recent dip is included.

That is primarily down to students entering Australia to study English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS).

It is hard to pinpoint one exact reason for the rise, but beyond the currency impact, it likely reflects a range of effects including a push by the Japanese Government to encourage overseas travel by students.

The Japanese Government announced the Super Global Program in 2013, as well as the Tobitate (Leap for Tomorrow), which offers a range of scholarships and partnership programs with universities around the world. A focus of these initiatives is to increase the number of Japanese students studying overseas but another is to attract foreign students to Japan for study.

Looking forward, ANZ Research envisages that Australia is likely to see further growth in the number of Japanese students.

The 2020 reform of Japan’s university examinations is going to place a larger emphasis on English. This could see an increase in the number of younger Japanese students going abroad to undertake a short English language course.

While there is no doubt that policy initiatives in Japan and the preferences of Japanese consumers will be of great importance, the path taken by the AUD will remain critical to the outlook for Japanese visitors to Australia.


ANZ has been established in Japan for 50 years, opening an office in Tokyo on December 3, 1969. A full banking authority was approved in 1985, an Osaka branch in 1990 and a licence to deal in securities in 2018.

ANZ Japan has been instrumental in supporting the development of Australia-Japan trade and investment throughout that period, a time in which Japan became Australia’s most significant trade partner. The bank offers a full range of services to corporate and institutional clients together with retail and wealth products for individual investors.

Hayden Dimes is Market Economist and David Plank is Head of Australian Economics at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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