TOKYO: The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan came to 507,600 in January-June, up 5.3-fold from the same period last year, government data showed Wednesday.
The figure was still down 96.9 pct from the first half of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Japan started easing its COVID-19 border control measures in March this year, conditionally allowing new entry by foreigners for purposes other than tourism.
In April, the monthly number of visitors exceeded 100,000 for the first time since March 2020. The number stayed above the level for three straight months until last month.
The country started accepting foreigners on prearranged package tours with conductors in June.
Still, the number of foreign visitors is unlikely to rise sharply for the time being, with the country keeping its daily entry cap at 20,000.
Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Koichi Wada told a press conference Wednesday that the agency has confirmed that more than 14,000 people were waiting to visit the country on package tours this month.
No COVID-19 infections among package tour visitors nor problems in areas accepting such tours have been reported so far, Wada said.
Regarding calls from the tourism industry to further ease border control measures, Wada said that the government will relax the restrictions in stages while keeping a balance between coronavirus prevention efforts and social and economic activities.