The Chinese are the biggest spenders of all foreign visitors to Japan, spending a record $13 billion in 2016, which experts said shows tourism is less affected by politics.
The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) said foreign tourists in Japan spent 3.7 trillion yen ($32.6 billion) in 2016, a 7.8 percent increase from the previous year, Japan's Kyodo News reported Tuesday. Chinese tourists spent 1.47 trillion yen in Japan in 2016, which was 27.6 percent over the previous year, the JTA said, adding that 6.37 million Chinese visited Japan.
A report by China-based travel services Ctrip showed that more than 6 million Chinese visited Japan last year, spending an estimated 100 billion yuan ($14.5 million). Japan was listed as the third most popular travel destination for Chinese, behind Thailand and South Korea, it said.
"Tourism is being affected more by economics rather than politics," Ding Hongwei, a professor at the Beijing Center for Japanese Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Most Chinese who visit Japan are young because they're attracted by Japanese animation, cartoons and films, said Ding, which shows the huge influence of Japanese soft power on young Chinese.
"The Chinese government is holding a very open altitude toward Japan as an increasing number of Chinese visit Japan," said Hu Lingyuan, a research fellow of Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University.
Visiting Japan helps ease political tensions, which is much better than trying to understand the country through media coverage, Hu said.
But recent news about a Japanese hotel chain providing books which openly deny the Nanjing Massacre in China and forced prostitution in Korea and China during World War II has angered visitors, said Hu, adding that "the APA Group is not professional and disrespectable to visitors, to the Chinese in particular."
Many Chinese Sina Weibo users are calling on travel agencies to boycott the hotel chain. A user named "Yue-crystalwxgg" urged people not to stay at APA hotels when they visit Japan.
The books were written under the pen name Seiji Fuji by Toshio Motoya, APA Group CEO, which runs the hotels.
The company refused to withdraw the books despite pressure, and also claims that the articles or opinions of the books in question are from adequate academic materials and had been published in a magazine called Apple Town.