The number of foreign visitors to Japan reached a record high of 31.88 million in 2019, but the growth was limited by a sharp fall in tourists from South Korea amid deteriorating bilateral ties, the tourism minister said Friday.

The figure marked an all-time high for the seventh consecutive year but the margin of growth stood at 2.2 percent, remaining in single digits for the second straight year, according to Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba.

The outcome clouded the outlook for the government to achieve its goal of attracting 40 million in 2020.

While overall visitors are expected to increase in 2020 due to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, some previous host cities have seen a decline in tourists as they tried to avoid large crowds and sharp hikes in accommodation fees.

With the number of flights connecting Japan and South Korea already cut on reduced demand amid the strained ties, major travel agency JTB Corp. has estimated the number of overseas travelers in 2020 will only reach 34.3 million.

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