More PH tourists in Ja­pan seen

Cebu Daily News - - ENTERPRISE - by Vic­tor An­thony V. Silva RE­PORTER

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.

Mul­ti­ple-en­try visas

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.

Di­rect flights

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.

Hot des­ti­na­tion

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 mul­ti­pleen­try 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.

CDN PHOTO/VIC­TOR SILVA

TONAI

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