No. of foreign tourists visiting Japan plunges 29% in Jan.-June

The number of foreign tourists who visited Japan from January to June this year plunged 28.6 percent from a year earlier to 3,095,000, as the global recession and the spread of new influenza affected international travel, according to an estimate released Tuesday by the Japan National Tourism Organization.

By month, the number of foreign visitors marked a drop of 41.3 percent in February from a year earlier, the third-biggest fall ever, partly due to the appreciation of the yen, which made the cost of staying in Japan more expensive.

The number of foreign visitors declined 34.0 percent in May, when the first infection of the new H1N1 strain of influenza A was confirmed in Japan, while it dropped 37.7 percent in June, marking the 11th consecutive month of year-on-year declines, the government-affiliated body said.

By region, the number of tourists from South Korea fell 48.5 percent in the six-month period, while that from Taiwan decreased 37.1 percent and that from Singapore dropped 31.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the organization said that 7,190,000 Japanese traveled abroad between January and June, down 9.1 percent from a year earlier.

In June, the number of Japanese traveling abroad plunged 21.3 percent from a year earlier partly due to the recession, marking the biggest fall since August 2003, when a drop of 22.4 percent was logged amid the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

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