Visa has revealed data demonstrating the vast impact of the Sakura bloom on Japan’s economy. The data covers spending patterns and travel behaviours of visitors during the cultural phenomenon. Specifically, Visa noted a 50% increase in overall inbound tourism spend. This is fuelled by an increase of 43% in the number of transactions recorded.

Blooming business – unveiling the economic impact

An increase in tourism due to the Sakura bloom led to a surge in payment volumes across the country. The peak spending days moved from southern Japan northward, coinciding with timings of the peak blooms. This underscores the allure of the Sakura season, enticing visitors to follow its path across the country.

Those visiting prefectures known for nature spent more than 20% of their budget on accommodation. Visitors to Tokyo and Osaka spent more than 50% of their budgets on shopping and dining.

Makita Hiroki, General Manager of the Marketing Strategy Department for the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau said: “We believe in the unifying power of the Sakura season to bring people world-over together. These Visa insights are powerful and allow us to properly plan for the arrival of global visitors for the Osaka expo next spring.”

Beyond arrival numbers: understanding visitor preferences

Travellers from Southeast Asia and East Asia, in particular Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, were top spenders during the season. These travellers also reportedly enjoyed last-minute shopping sprees, with 60% of their expenses spent shopping on the very last day of travel, purchasing souvenirs, gifts or to take advantage of the duty-free shopping draw.

The Philippines led the region with the highest growth rate of 66% in terms of total payment volumes. Vietnam, on the other hand, registered the highest uplift of 22% in terms of spend per card, particularly at department stores, pharmacies, high-end and jewellery stores. They were joined at the jewellery stores by tourists from East Asia, who spent an additional 8%.

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Spending patterns are also disparate depending on the income level of travellers. The data revealed that high-net-worth travellers allocate approximately 20% to 30% of their spending towards accommodation during their Sakura journey.

In contrast, budget travellers exhibit a more fluid spending pattern that focused on dining and shopping experiences.

Contactless payments in bloom

Travellers are embracing contactless with overall usage increasing by 14% from the start of the Sakura season to the end.

Visitors from countries with medium and high contactless maturity swiftly adopted this payment method from day one.

TR Ramachandran, Senior Vice President, Head of Products and Services, Asia Pacific, Visa, said: “The power of data lies in its ability to transform raw numbers into meaningful insights, driving informed decision-making, and strategic planning.

Data-driven decisions for a thriving tourism industry

Our analysis of the Sakura bloom’s impact on tourism and spending patterns highlights how data can help us better understand complex phenomena, identify trends, and make predictions. In this case, the data has not only provided us with insights into tourist behaviour and spending patterns. It also enabled us to identify opportunities for service improvement and targeted marketing at a specific demographic and prefecture level.

“Visa’s data unlocks more than just current trends. Solutions such as the Visa Destination Insights can empower players in the tourism industry as well as local merchants to predict future behaviours and inform strategic planning. By analysing the impact of the Sakura season, Visa equips businesses large and small, with valuable insights to optimise their offerings and deliver a seamless travel experience for visitors.”