• Kyodo, Jiji

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The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan plunged 98.3% in January from a year earlier to 46,500, down for the 16th straight month, after the country suspended the entry of all nonresident foreign nationals due to a surge in coronavirus cases, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The number also marked a fall from the previous month for the first time in eight months, the agency said Wednesday.

The number of visitors had been on the rise since last June with the gradual easing of entry restrictions, particularly for business people. But the halt of such special treatment put a damper on the recovery trend.

In the reporting month, visitors from Vietnam made up almost half of the arrivals at 20,000, down 60.3%. Many technical interns from the country entered Japan before the Japanese government suspended the entry of all nonresident foreign nationals in mid-January, the agency said.

Those from China came second, totaling 10,200, down 98.9%, followed by 2,500 from South Korea, down 99.2%.

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

Meanwhile, the number of Japanese nationals departing the country dropped 96.5% to 48,700.

As for domestic travel, the agency said spending on trips within Japan fell 54.9% in 2020 from the previous year to ¥9,898.2 billion. The total number of domestic travelers dropped 50.3% to 291.77 million.

Both spending and traveler numbers hit the lowest level since 2010, when the survey in the current format began.

Domestic travel spending plunged 83.2% year on year in April-June 2020, during which Japan implemented its first COVID-19 state of emergency.

The government started its Go To Travel discount program in July. But travel spending incurred a 56.6% year-on-year drop in July-September and a 46.5% decline in October-December.

In 2020, the average per capita spending per trip fell 9.2% from the previous year to ¥33,925. Many travelers chose destinations closer to their homes, and Go To Travel also led to a decrease in the amounts spent by travelers, according to agency officials.

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