TOKYO: The number of foreign visitors to Japan in the first half of 2020 is estimated to have dropped 76.3 pct from a year before, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday.
The decline resulted from travel restrictions imposed around the world due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The January-June total of 3,947,000 marked the lowest first-half level since the first six months of 2011, when a major earthquake and tsunami that hit mainly northeastern Japan in March the same year and a subsequent nuclear accident scared off foreigners.
In June 2020 alone, the estimated number of visitors to Japan dropped 99.9 pct from a year earlier to 2,600. It was the third consecutive month for the figure to stand below 3,000.
Inbound visitors have been on the decline since February, after a relatively robust figure of about 2.66 million in January. It is uncertain when the number of travelers will pick up again as the novel coronavirus continues to spread both domestically and internationally.
The total number of foreign visitors in 2020 is now very unlikely to reach 10 million, let alone the government’s goal of 40 million.
The government is looking to support the embattled tourism industry through its “Go To Travel” domestic tourism promotion campaign.
But the industry is unsure about how to promote travel amid rising coronavirus cases in Tokyo and other areas, with an official of a travel agency saying, “We are not sure how we should propose traveling.”
“We can prevent the spread of the virus and promote tourism at the same time if measures against infection are implemented thoroughly,” Hiroshi Tabata, head of the Japan Tourism Agency, told a press conference the same day.
He called on both businesses, such as travel agencies and accommodation operators, and travelers to make sure to take measures against the virus.
A government panel on novel coronavirus response measures is slated to hold a meeting Thursday, in which member experts may advise against tourism promotion. Tabata said that he would accept any advice from the panel and take appropriate measures.