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Aug 28, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Japan: Instagram boosting tourism and lesser-known destinations

With Japan’s tourist industry enjoying a boom, more and more visitors are giving up guidebooks for Instagram. The number of people using the app in the country has more than doubled over the last two years to over 20 million. 

Having grown popular on the back of videos of celebrities and food photos, Instagram is now influencing users’ tourism choices, not least in Japan, where it has boosted the popularity of destinations off the beaten track, as reported by Bloomberg. The town of Nagato, situated on the southern tip of the island of Honshu, saw more than one million visitors in 2017, a 36-fold increase in three years. Profiled by CNN as one of “Japan’s 31 most beautiful places”, it has since proved hugely popular with the app’s users. 


Inspired by Instagram


Boasting more than 20 million users in Japan, Instagram is proving hugely influential in that part of the world, as people turn to it to decide what to eat and wear and where to travel. Such is its popularity, in fact, that the term “Insta-bae” or “Instagram-worthy” has entered the Japanese lexicon and was the country’s top buzzword in 2017. “Instagram is different from other social media because users are the ones taking the initiative to post and spread pictures, not the local municipalities,” says Kazukiyo Yonemura of marketing firm Full Speed Inc.

Nagato’s shinto shrine has become a huge hit on Instagram, with the sudden increase in visitor numbers causing huge traffic jams. “We widened roads, built toilets and increased parking from 24 to more than 100 spaces this April,” said Erika Watanabe of the town’s tourism department.


A booming industry


Tapping into the new trend, Japan’s National Tourism Organization embarked on a partnership with Instagram last year, introducing a new hashtag, #UnknownJapan. According to Ryoko Ichimura, a spokeswoman for Instagram in Japan, it led to more than five million foreign visitors sharing posts.

The Japan Tourism Agency has released figures showing that foreign tourist spending has quadrupled since 2010, to an average 150,000 yen per person, while the number of visitors from abroad reached a record 28.7 million people in 2017. That figure should rise even further, not least with the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on the horizon.


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