Tokyo, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The number of tourists arriving in Japan in February fell by 58.3 percent year-on-year while Chinese visitors to the country in the same month plummeted by 87.9 percent amid an ongoing global coronavirus outbreak, according to official data released Thursday.
A total 1.09 million tourists visited Japan in February as compared to the 2.6 million that did so in the same month of 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Japan began recording a spurt in COVID-19 infections in the country in February, leading the authorities to restrict the entry of people from the areas worst hit by the coronavirus in China and South Korea.
Moreover, the spread of the pandemic in China and South Korea forced Japanese airline companies to cancel operations on several routes including to the Chinese city of Wuhan, from where the coronavirus originated.
Chinese visitors to the country stood at 87,200, representing a sharp 87.9 percent drop from the 723,617 that visited in February last year.
Meanwhile, South Korean tourists to Japan also decreased by 79.9 percent to 143,900 last month.
In recent years, Chinese tourists have topped the list of foreign visitors to Japan, followed by those from South Korea.
However, the number of South Korean tourists to Japan has declined significantly since last year following political and diplomatic differences between the governments of the two countries.
Taiwan topped the list of foreign visitors to Japan in February with 220,400 tourists, which was still 44.9 percent less than those arrived in the country in the same month last year.
The second highest number of tourists to Japan were from Hong Kong (115,600), a year-on-year drop of 35.5 percent.
Hiroshi Tabata, head of the Japan Tourism Agency at the Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, said at a press conference that the decline in number of tourists to Japan in February was only the second worst since the country began collecting statistical data on tourism in 1975.
The worst decline – 62.5 percent – was recorded in April 2011, the month after Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant on Mar. 11, 2011.
Despite the existing situation, Tabata was hopeful that the tourism sector would be back on its feet once the crisis was over. EFE-EPA