The number of foreign passengers on international flights through Kansai International Airport in the last fiscal year surpassed the number of Japanese for the first time since it opened in 1994, the airport operator said Wednesday.

Preliminary figures from New Kansai International Airport Co., which runs the international gateway airport for the Kansai region, showed the number of foreign travelers on international routes soared 41 percent from a year earlier to 6.99 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31, while that of Japanese dropped 7 percent to 6.3 million.

The figures come as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to double the number of foreign tourists to Japan to 20 million by the 2020, the year Tokyo OPlympics will be held.

The number of foreign passengers grew as a weaker yen encouraged people to visit Japan and low-cost carriers launched more new international flights to connect the airport.

The number of overall international flight passengers through the Kansai airport rose 12 percent to a record 13.52 million, including those taking connecting flights, in the last fiscal year, outstripping the 12.85 million in the fiscal year that ended in March 2001.

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