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According to government data, released on Friday, Japan set itself a goal to draw ten million foreign visitors in 2013.
On Friday evening that goal was realized and the ten millionth visitor to walk through Narita airport was a visitor from Thailand. The special visitor was greeted by Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ota and other officials during a celebratory event at the airport.
“Today is a brilliant day, as we have been hoping to break 10 million visitors for a long time,” Mr Ota said in an opening speech. “From here on in, we will do our very best in aiming to bring in 20 million visitors annually by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” he added.
Japan’s government had aimed to reach the 10 million mark in 2010, but the global financial downturn, followed by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the country’s northeast, hit tourism, leaving 2010’s 8.61 million visitor tally as the record high until this year’s recovery.
JTB Corp, the largest travel agency in Japan, said Friday foreign visitor numbers in 2014 could reach 11.8 million, with the recent addition of traditional Japanese cuisine to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list likely to stoke interest in Japan.