Region cheers Japan’s visa policy liberalisation

TOURISM stakeholders in South-east Asia were given a reason to smile this week as Japan announced it would be loosening visa requirements for inbound travellers from the region.

According to and a statement from the embassy of Japan in Thailand, citizens of Thailand and Malaysia will soon see visa waivers for certain lengths of stay. Tourists from Vietnam and the Philippines will be eligible for multiple-entry visas and Indonesians will have their visa validity periods extended.

A release by the Japanese embassy in Thailand said final preparations were being made in order for the new rules to take effect by this summer.

Welcoming the relaxed visa regulations, Suthipong Pheunphiphop, president of Thai Travel Agents Association, said: “This will surely push up Thai outbound numbers to Japan, especially since Japan is already a popular destination for Thais, and Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is one of the strongest destination marketing offices in Thailand.

“Around 260,000 Thais visited Japan last year and it’s guaranteed that figures will surpass 300,000 this year. But with the visa exemption, I expect the number of Thai visitors to Japan this year will grow further to hit 400,000.”

Gwen Teng, senior manager, tour, Apple Vacations & Conventions said more young FIT travellers would now be encouraged to visit Japan, as AirAsia X runs direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Haneda and Kansai airports.

She described the current visa submission process as being tedious, with applicants required to present their latest bank statement, proof of employment or proof of relationship when travelling with family.

Cooper Huang, CEO, Malaysian Harmony Tours & Travel, said he expected a 100 per cent growth in travel to Japan for this year. In anticipation of increased interest to Japan, the company plans to organise charter flights and tours to Japan for this year-end school holiday period.

JNTO statistics show that 130,300 Malaysians visited Japan in 2012 and 32,000 did so in 1Q2013.

Motonari Adachi, executive director, JNTO Singapore, commented that the visa exemption would grow tourist arrivals to Japan, adding that it “serve(s) as a good opportunity for JNTO to draw more visitors to Japan, so look out for upcoming major promotional campaigns”.

Japan intends to double visitorship from the region (TTG Asia e-Daily, November 20, 2012) and recently held the inaugural Japan-ASEAN Travel Mart (TTG Asia e-Daily, May 15, 2013).

Additional reporting by Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

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