• Kyodo

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The estimated number of foreign travelers to Japan plunged 98.9% in October from a year earlier to 27,400 for the 13th straight month of decline due to the global coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.

However, it did mark the first time the number has exceeded the 20,000 level in seven months as the government has eased entry restrictions imposed on 159 countries and regions, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

The number has been on an upward trend since it tumbled to 1,663 in May, the lowest point this year so far, as the government lifted a state of emergency in late May.

Visitors from Vietnam totaled 6,200, followed by 4,500 from China, 2,000 from South Korea and 1,400 from Thailand.

Travelers from Vietnam ranked first in the statistics for the first time since 1982, the earliest year when comparable data became available, according to the organization.

Since Oct. 1, a limited number of business travelers from around the globe have also been permitted to enter Japan under certain conditions.

The number of visitor arrivals includes expatriates and their families entering or re-entering Japan as well as international students. Aircrew and permanent residents were excluded.

In the meantime, the number of Japanese nationals departing the country in October also plunged 98.1% from a year earlier to 31,000.

With many countries still imposing cross-border travel restrictions, the government is pinning its hopes on domestic tourism to revive the industry, which has been severely hit by the pandemic.

It launched the Go To Travel subsidy campaign to support domestic tourism and as a result spending by travelers in the country between July and September surpassed ¥2.92 trillion, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Japan Tourism Agency.

The figure tripled from the April to June period, but was still a decline of 56.3% from a year earlier.

The number of trips made by Japanese nationals in the country totaled 85.74 million between July and September, according to the data.

However, whether the tourism industry continues its recovery path to climb out of the slump remains uncertain, as public concerns over COVID-19 infections have been increasing along with the recent spikes in new cases in Tokyo and other urban areas.

On Wednesday, Japan reported over 2,000 new infections in a day for the first time since the outbreak of the virus, with Tokyo hitting a daily record at 493.

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