• Kyodo

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An estimated 2,900 foreign travelers visited Japan in April, down 99.9 percent from a year earlier, amid the global coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest government data.

It is the first time that the monthly figure, which was released Wednesday, has slipped below the 10,000 mark since 1964, when the Japan Tourism Agency began compiling such statistics. The percentage decrease was also the largest ever.

The previous low for monthly foreign visitors was 17,543, recorded in February 1964.

The figure fell in April for the seventh consecutive month since October, when a significant drop in visitors from South Korea and a devastating typhoon halted the trend of increasing numbers of visitors from overseas.

Bilateral ties between Tokyo and Seoul have soured over the issue of wartime labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

The government is seeking to boost domestic tourism by subsidizing a portion of travel expenses once the coronavirus outbreak is brought under control.

The ¥1.35 trillion ($12.5 billion) program could start in July if novel coronavirus infections subside soon, Hiroshi Tabata, chief of the agency, told a news conference Wednesday.

As travel restrictions have been put in place globally, the number of Japanese nationals who left the country in April plunged 99.8 percent from a year earlier to 3,900, according to the data from the agency.

Japan expanded its travel restrictions in early April, bringing the number of countries from which foreign nationals were barred from entry to about 70, including all parts of China and South Korea, as well as the United States and most of Europe.

The number of visitors from China fell to 200 in April from 726,132 from a year earlier, and those from South Korea dropped to 300 from 566,624, according to the data.

The number of visitors from Taiwan and the United States also decreased to 300 each from 403,467 and 170,247, respectively, in April last year.

Fewer than 10 people each from Italy and Spain, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus, visited Japan last month, according to the data.

The accumulated number of foreign visitors between January and April stood at 3.94 million, down 64.1 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

Japan’s entry ban aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus was expanded to about 100 countries this month.

In recent years, inbound tourism has been one of the few sectors to see rapid growth in the long-stagnant economy. But the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics initially scheduled for July, dealing a heavy blow to the inbound tourism drive spearheaded by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

This story has been corrected to reflect Kyodo News’ reporting that the government has not designated an amount it will subsidize for domestic travel expenses.

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