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Japan is now welcoming residents of the once SARS-infected areas of Taiwan and Hong Kong to its shores in a bid to revive its tourism industry.

The government-led Visit Japan Campaign began running full-page ads Wednesday in major newspapers in Taiwan and will soon do likewise in Hong Kong.

“Welcome! Japan welcomes visits by Taiwanese people,” one of the ads published in four Taiwanese newspapers says. The ads will be run in three Hong Kong newspapers on Aug. 5.

The World Health Organization had by July 5 removed Taiwan and Hong Kong from the list of areas affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The government-sponsored advertising campaign, costing 12 million yen, is partly designed to remove lingering concerns among local authorities in Japan who are still apprehensive about accepting visitors from these areas.

The government hopes to attract 10 million visitors to Japan by 2010. In 2001, roughly 4.77 million overseas visitors visited the country.

The government calculates 10 million overseas visitors would generate 8.3 trillion yen worth of economic activity in Japan and lead to the creation of 482,000 jobs.

According to 2001 government figures, the largest segment of overseas visitors to Japan came from South Korea, followed by Taiwan. Visitors from Hong Kong made up the fifth-largest group.

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