National

Foreign visitors to Japan down for fourth straight month in January

Kyodo

The number of foreign visitors to Japan fell for the fourth straight month in January, down 1.1 percent from a year earlier, government data showed Wednesday, with sharper declines seemingly inevitable in the months ahead due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

An estimated 2.66 million foreigners visited Japan, with the number of South Korean tourists continuing to fall sharply as relations between the two countries remain soured by wartime issues, according to the data from the Japan Tourism Agency.

Visitors from China hit a record high for the reporting month at 924,800, up 22.6 percent, owing to the Lunar New Year holiday period that started in late January. Last year, the holiday began in early February.

The Chinese government, however, banned group travel and some individual trips overseas on Jan. 27 following the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus. Japan’s tourism industry is expected to be hit over the long term.

Compared with the period before the outbreak, about 70 percent of regular flights between Japan and China, or 1,160 round trips, have been cut, Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Tabata said.

“Travelers not just from China but from other countries are beginning to refrain from making trips,” Tabata said at a news conference. “We’re preparing to launch inbound promotion at an appropriate time.”

By country and region, Taiwan had the second most travelers at 461,200, up 19.0 percent from a year earlier. South Korea had 316,800, down 59.4 percent, followed by 219,400 from Hong Kong, up 42.2 percent.

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