Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday the government will boost efforts to achieve its target of 40 million visitors to Japan by 2020 as it seeks economic growth through tourism.

The number this year is already estimated to have surpassed 20 million on Aug. 15 and is expected to eclipse the 30 million mark for the full year, according to the government.

"The target of 40 million visitors to Japan in 2020 is now within our reach. We will swiftly work toward it in the next two years," Abe told a Cabinet meeting at his office.

The prime minister also said, "We need to make a recovery as soon as possible from the damage (to tourism) from the heavy rain that hit western Japan" in July. Abe instructed his ministers to take measures to that end.

During the meeting on tourism strategy, the Japan Tourism Agency reported that the number of visitors and their spending in 2017 had increased 3.5-fold and quadrupled, respectively, compared with 2012.

The agency added the total number of foreign visitors staying in regional areas quadrupled in the same time period.

In discussions on how to recover from the rain disaster and the Osaka earthquake in June, a tourism promotion body in the disaster-hit region asked for conditions to be eased for government subsidies to tourists visiting the affected areas.

Japan, which will host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 in Tokyo, views tourism as a pillar of its growth strategy. It has eased visa requirements and increased the number of low-cost carriers and other flights to boost inbound tourism.