• Kyodo

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Japan received an estimated 13,700 foreign travelers in September, marking a year-on-year plunge of more than 99 percent for the sixth straight month amid the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday.

Although the number of overseas visitors tumbled 99.4 percent from the previous year, it rose 5,000 from August, as entry restrictions were eased for those who hold residential status in Japan, according to the data released by the Japan Tourism Agency.

Foreigners entering or re-entering Japan, such as expatriates and their families, and international students are included in visitor arrivals, although airline and ship crews as well as permanent residents are not.

Still, the latest figure marked the 12th consecutive monthly decline since last October, when the number of South Korean visitors plunged amid souring political ties between Tokyo and Seoul over wartime issues.

The Japanese government is expected to come up with a plan by the end of the year to revive the number of foreign visitors, officials said.

In the meantime, the number of Japanese nationals departing the country in September plunged 98.2 percent from a year earlier to 31,600.

The latest travel data came a day after the tourism ministry’s preliminary figures showed the Go To Travel subsidy campaign had covered 25.18 million domestic overnight stays since its launch in July through the end of September.

During that period, the government funded a total of ¥109.9 billion ($1 billion) in discounts under the subsidy program designed to boost the tourism sector hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of travelers using the campaign is expected to increase as travel to and from Tokyo was added to the scheme on Oct. 1.

The capital was initially excluded due to the high number of new cases of infection there. Tokyoites comprise 10 percent of the domestic population.

Under the ¥1.35 trillion yen program, effective through January, tourists receive a 35 percent discount for hotels and package tour costs and a 15 percent discount in the form of coupons for shopping and dining at travel destinations.

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