National

Japan marks largest drop in foreign visitors in over seven years in October

Kyodo

The number of foreign visitors to Japan marked the largest percentage drop in more than seven years in October with a 5.5 percent year-on-year fall, as a devastating typhoon and a continued plunge in South Korean tourists more than offset positive effects from the Rugby World Cup, government data showed Wednesday.

The number of overseas visitors came to 2,496,600 in the month, down from 2,640,610 in October last year, the Japan Tourism Agency said.

The 5.5 percent decline was the biggest since February 2012 when the figure sagged 19.6 percent, and represents a setback to the government’s efforts to boost the number of annual inbound visitors to 40 million by next year when the country hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Overseas visitors totaled 26,914,400 in the first 10 months of the year, up 3.1 percent from the same period a year earlier.

In October, the number of South Korean visitors plunged 65.5 percent to 197,300 following a 58.1 percent drop in September and 48.0 percent tumble in August amid frayed ties between Tokyo and Seoul.

Bilateral relations have soured since South Korean court rulings last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate for wartime labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

The row has escalated in recent months into a tit-for-tat trade dispute, prompting both governments to revoke each other’s preferential status as trade partners. Seoul also decided not to renew a bilateral military pact with Japan, which is set to formally expire on Saturday.

Typhoon Hagibis, which made landfall on Oct. 12, also reduced the number of foreign visitors, the agency said. The storm devastated wide areas of the country with record-breaking torrential rains and killed more than 90 people.

Overseas tourist numbers failed to grow, even as visitors from countries that competed in the Rugby World Cup, which ran from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2, rose by 81,000 from the same period a year earlier.

By country and region, China came first with 730,600 visitors in October, up 2.1 percent, followed by Taiwan with 413,700, up 9.0 percent. South Korea came in third, followed by Hong Kong with 180,600, up 6.6 percent.