A businessman looks at cherry blossoms in full bloom in Tokyo. Photo by Toru Hanai, Reuters.
TOKYO - The Japanese government and the ruling coalition are making arrangements to waive visas for tourists from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam as one of the initiatives in a revised action plan due out in June to make Japan a tourism-oriented country, government sources said Monday.
The initiative, which is aimed at drawing more tourists from Southeast Asia, including the Muslim population in the region, is envisioned as Japan seeks to achieve its goal of increasing the annual number of foreign visitors to 20 million in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also looking to tourism as a pillar of its strategy to spur the country's economic growth.
Last year, tourists from Thailand and Malaysia increased 61 percent from the previous year to a combined 630,000, after their visas were waived last July. It helped Japan's overall number of foreign tourists to top 10 million in a year for the first time.
Roughly 140,000 Indonesians, 110,000 Filipinos and 80,000 Vietnamese visited Japan last year. Among the countries whose nationals need visas to enter Japan, the three Southeast Asian countries ranked high in terms of the number of visitors to Japan, following China.
With a visa waiver, a large increase in the number of visitors to Japan can be expected from the three Southeast Asian nations, given growing demand in such countries for overseas trips reflecting their economic growth, observers say.
The rates at which overstay occurred among the short-term visitors from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam between January and November last year were relatively low at between 0.09 percent and 0.34 percent.
By country and region, China, South Korea and Taiwan have sent the largest number of tourists to Japan.
To attain the goal of increasing the annual number of foreign visitors to 20 million, Japan needs to step up efforts to attract a greater number of people from Southeast Asian countries, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.
Japan has waived visas for short-term visitors from South Korea, Taiwan and 64 other countries and regions, if their purposes of visit are sightseeing or visiting their relatives.
South Korea, which rivals Japan as one of the main tourist destinations in Northeast Asia, has also eased its visa policy to attract a greater number of visitors.