Japan saw a record number of overseas visitors in the first six months of 2019 with an estimated 16.63 million arrivals, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, government data showed Wednesday.

Spending by foreign visitors in the period through June increased 8.3 percent from a year earlier to ¥2.43 trillion ($22 billion), also an all-time high, the Japan Tourism Agency said.

The government has set a target of attracting 40 million foreign visitors annually from this year and increasing their spending to ¥8 trillion next year when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

By country and region, the highest number of visitors so far in 2019 came from China at 4,532,500, up 11.7 percent, with the increase boosted by the easing of visa restrictions in January.

However, the number of South Korean visitors fell 3.8 percent to 3,862,700, while those from Taiwan decreased 1.0 percent to 2,480,800, the agency said.

In an attempt to achieve the targets, the government has eased visa rules, expanded airports for budget airlines and promoted private lodging services to address an accommodation shortage.

In June alone, 2.88 million people from overseas visited Japan, up 6.5 percent from a year earlier, also marking a record for the month.

The number of visitors from China at 880,700, up 15.7 percent, was an all-time high for a single month, while those from 16 countries and regions, including Australia, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the United States, set respective records for June.