Travel to Japan just got easier

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 May, 2010, 12:00am

Japan is opening its doors wider to mainland tourists by lowering the annual income requirement for individual visas from 250,000 yuan (HK$284,600) to 60,000 yuan or even less. The change takes effect on July 1.

Citing government officials yesterday, the Kyodo news agency said the annual income requirement for individual Chinese tourist visas would be lowered to 60,000 yuan, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said the requirement could be further lowered to 30,000 or 50,000 yuan.

The Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily said the purchasing power of wealthy mainland tourists had exceeded that of their European counterparts and the Japanese government's new visa policy could potentially attract more than 400 million tourists from the mainland.

In 2000, the Japanese government began allowing tour groups from the mainland to travel in the country for up to 15 days.

Last July, tourist visa restrictions were relaxed to allow individuals in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou making at least 250,000 yuan a year to submit applications. In the first nine months following the relaxation, it issued 16,000 visas.

The Japan Tourism Agency reported that 1.01 million mainland tourists had visited last year, up 0.6 per cent year on year. In 2007 (the last year for which complete figures are available), the average stay was 13.9 days, and mainland tourists spent an average of about 9,200 yen (HK$781) every day, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation's Shanghai office.

Tan Weiming of the China Travel Service in Guangzhou said mainland tourists' spending power had been on the increase in recent years. 'Many people who have previously travelled to Japan in groups would be very interested in applying for individual tourist visas now the income required is lower. Hokkaido is now favoured by mainland tourists. They mostly spend at least six to seven days there,' he said.

Japan has also opened diplomatic offices in Chongqing, in Shenyang and Dalian in Liaoning, and in Qingdao, Shandong , to begin handling visa applications previously handled by its embassy in Beijing and consulates in Guangzhou and Shanghai.

Kyodo also said the Japanese government planned to introduce other measures, such as granting individual tourist visas to immediate family members based on the income of a household's main breadwinner.