Japanese officials say easing of visa requirements, more direct flights to fuel tourism growth
The Filipino tourism wave in Japan will likely continue.
A trend that Daisuke Tonai, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Preparation Office for Manila executive director, said has been fueled by multiple-entry visa grants as well as the continuing expansion of air networks from the country to Japan.
Tonai said they consider the Philippines one of their most important tourism markets especially since the number of Filipino travelers to Japan in the past few years has been expanding rapidly.
“This has been made possible by favorable conditions such as the easing of visa requirements for multiple-entry visas as well as air network expansions,” he said during the Visit Japan Travel Seminar and Business Meeting Session 2017 in Cebu City on Thursday.
The one-day event at Radisson Blu Club aimed to introduce and highlight updated information about Japan tourism and further promote Japan as a preferred destination among Filipino travelers.
JNTO gathered 18 Japanese tour groups, four airlines as well as 41 local travel agents for a business matching activity in the afternoon.
In his speech, Tonai said Japan welcomed 347,860 Filipinos in 2016, reflecting a 29.6 percent increase from figures recorded in 2015.
Between January and August 2017, Tonai said they have already accounted for 270,000 Filipino tourists, growing 23.4 percent compared to the covered period last year.
To celebrate the 40th year of Asean-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, the Japanese government on July 1, 2013 began the issuance of multiple-entry visas for short-term stay to Filipinos.
Filipinos were allowed to travel to Japan and stay there for 15 to 30 days multiple times over a validity period of five years where they were only granted single-entry visas before.
In 2014, a year after Japan started relaxing its visa policy for the Philippines, it received over 184,000 visitors, which was 70 percent more than the 108,351 logged the previous year.
Cebu Pacific and Jetstar currently offer direct flights between Manila and Japan while Japanese budget airline Vanilla Air introduced direct flights between Cebu and Narita in Japan last December 2016.
Moving forward, Tonai said the Filipino tourism wave in Japan will likely continue.
“With this, Japan is only getting closer and closer to the Philippines,” Tonai said.
Reasons for visit
Yosuke Togezaki, JNTO senior representative to the Philippines, said among the reasons Filipinos want to go to Japan is to see what the country looks like during different seasons.
“Japan has four seasons. Filipinos want to see the different faces of Japan during each season, especially during winter when there is snow. There is no snow in the Philippines, that is why they would want to go to Japan,” he said.
Togezaki said peak season for Filipino travelers to Japan is during Holy Week, summer vacation in the Philippines which happens at the same time with cherry blossom season, school holidays and Christmas.
The Philippines ranked tenth among Japan’s tourist markets in 2016 and currently sits on the eighth spot so far in 2017.
Japan’s top markets are China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the USA.
Togezaki said the top two places Filipinos visit in Japan are Tokyo and Osaka, but they are now trying to promote to the Philippines other places that are just as wonderful such as Hokkaido, Chubu, Kyushu and Okinawa.
Alan Carvajal, president of the Cebu Tours & Travel Association (CTTA), agreed that Japan has indeed become a hot destination for Filipino travelers, particularly among those from Cebu and the rest of the Visayas.
He said he hopes Japan will be able to sustain its “leniency” on its visa policy for the Philippines to continue attracting Filipino travelers.
Carvajal, however, pointed out that while they have been enjoying the easing of requirements for multiple-entry visas since 2014, the Japanese government has once again become “strict” beginning the third quarter of this year.
He said he has already brought this to the attention of the JNTO but was told this was no longer under their jurisdiction.
Nonetheless, Carvajal said he hopes the JNTO will at least be able to help lobby this concern to the Japanese government for immediate action.
Hong Kong and Singapore are the top travel picks among Cebuanos, Carvajal said, since these countries do not have visa requirements, and direct flights to these places from the Philippines abound.
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