Starting from September 7, overseas tourists will be allowed to enter Japan without joining a guided tour. Yet this has not created more demand for the destination from Malaysia, agents reported, claiming that the main barrier – the visa requirement – needs to be removed in order to drive sales to the destination.
Koh Yock Heng, group managing director of Apple Vacations and Conventions, shared that pre-pandemic, there was no visa requirement for Malaysians travelling to Japan. Now, travelling to Japan will require Malaysian travel agencies to apply a visa for their customers, a process that takes about three weeks.
Nevertheless, at the recently concluded MATTA Fair, Koh added that the company managed to sell all 1,722 seats of their six chartered flights to Hokkaido this December, commenting that “response was good, better than anticipated” despite the challenges in obtaining a visa.
While the company managed to sell tour packages to Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka for this year-end period, Koh acknowledged that more tours were sold for destinations that were tourist-friendly and with minimal entry requirements – such as Europe, a favourite longhaul destination for Malaysians, where no visa or Covid-testing are required.
Nearer to home, he said Vietnam and Thailand were also popular for the same reasons on top of being budget-friendly.
Suka Holiday’s director, Adam Kamal, shared that bookings to Japan has been few due to the hassle and length of time in obtaining a visa. Instead, many customers are opting for destinations like Turkey, Central Europe and Thailand for the year-end school holidays over Japan due to its restrictions.
Airlink Travel & Tour’s director, Vickie Yong, opined that the visa application should be shortened to a maximum of three days and with simpler requirements if it cannot be totally waived. She said Japan National Tourism Organization Malaysia has had to increase marketing and promotions in the country to expound on why Japan is worth visiting.