Foreign tourist numbers plunged 18.7% in 2009

Kyodo News

The number of foreign tourists who visited Japan last year plunged 18.7 percent to 6.79 million, the first fall in six years, due to the global recession and the spread of swine flu, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Monday.

It was the first double-digit decline since 1986, when the yen spiked against the dollar after five major industrial nations agreed in 1985 to let the U.S. currency depreciate in the so-called Plaza Accord to reduce U.S. trade deficits.

The government earlier set a goal of attracting 10 million foreign visitors this year, but the latest statistics suggest that target will be hard to reach.