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17:45 17 January 2017

Foreign visitors to Japan, tourists' spending in 2016 hit new records

TOKYO, Jan. 17, Kyodo

Spending by foreign visitors to Japan in 2016 grew 7.8 percent to 3.75 trillion yen ($33.2 billion) and the number of foreign visitors rose 21.8 percent to 24.04 million, both all-time highs, the government said Tuesday.

But the pace of increase in both spending and the number of visitors was much slower than the previous year, when spending soared 71.5 percent and the number of visitors surged 47.1 percent.

The Japan Tourism Agency attributed the 2016 rise in spending to the expansion of duty-free items and relaxed visa requirements for tourists.

It also traced the slowdown in the rate of increase to less explosive buying by Chinese tourists, a stronger yen, China's economic slowdown and the earthquakes that hit Kumamoto Prefecture in April.

In 2016, China accounted for the largest portion of visitors -- 6.37 million, up 27.6 percent from the previous year -- followed by 5.09 million from South Korea and 4.17 million from Taiwan, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.

In a bid to attract 40 million tourists in 2020, when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government is planning to upgrade airports and seaports, as well as improve access to national parks and cultural attractions.

==Kyodo

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