Japan expects tourism, shopping boom as visa waivered, yen weakens

Japan expects tourism, shopping boom as visa waivered, yen weakens

Country also now accepts individual travels after only allowing tour packages during pandemic

KUALA LUMPUR – Japan’s move to allow visa-free, independent tourism and travel amidst the weaker yen will boost its tourism, including attracting more visitors from Malaysia and help spur the revitalisation of what is surely the hardest-hit sector by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Fumi Matsumoto, executive director of the Japan National Travel Organisation Kuala Lumpur Office (JNTO), said the recent announcement on the easing of travel restrictions is expected to lift the economy with the expected increase in inbound tourism assisted by the weak yen.

Effective October 11, 2022, Japan will resume accepting individual travel and visa-free entry for foreign tourists as well as abolish its daily arrival cap.

Previously, tourists could only travel via tour packages.

“Travellers into Japan will benefit more with regards to dining and shopping due to the weak yen although tour package prices rose by 20 to 30% due to soaring fuel prices and new normal travel arrangements,” she told Bernama today.

She said long-standing bilateral relations and the Look East Policy (LEP), which marked its 40th anniversary this year, were set to continue to spur Malaysians to visit Japan including the top three favourite destinations of Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka.

On its part, JNTO has been promoting the charms of Japan even during the pandemic and was now going all out to boost Malaysian tourist arrivals into Japan since border entry restrictions were gradually eased from June 10, 2022.

Matsumoto said that while the travel restrictions where tourists have to travel via tour packages have been eased, potential tourists need to present either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate of three doses of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approved vaccines or a negative PCR result that was performed within 72 hours of leaving the country of origin.

Japan attracted about half a million tourists from Malaysia before the pandemic in 2019.

“We assume it will take a few years to be back at the same level,” she said, adding that 1,600 Malaysians visited Japan in July 2022.

Some 468,360 Malaysians visited Japan in 2018 and 501,592 in 2019 before the pandemic.

JNTO recently organised a hybrid Japan Travel Fair (JTF) 2022 from September 12 to 21, promoting travel to Japan.

Returning after three years and on the 40th anniversary of the LEP, the JTF 2022 live event at Tropicana Gardens Mall from September 16 to 18 had 21 organisations participating and the online event on the JNTO website had 26 organisations.

Matsumoto said more than 60,000 visitors came for the physical event while the online JTF 2022 had garnered more than 90,000 visitors, an indication that Malaysians were raring to visit Japan again.

She added that the JTF 2022 saw thirteen Japanese regional governments and related organisations participating online to promote their respective prefectures such as Okinawa which has a beautiful oceanfront, of which, “seven of them had come to Malaysia to be part of the JTF 2022.”

A total of 31.8 million tourists worldwide visited Japan in 2019.

Sara Yong from the Japan Travel Bureau said the response to the JTF 2022 was surprisingly good as many had already purchased tickets and booked pre-planned tours for the cherry blossom season.

From late March to mid-April, or even early May, the country’s iconic Sakura (cherry blossoms) capture the attention of visitors and locals as their beautiful flowers blanket the country in soft pink splendour.

“Now with borders reopening, they are looking forward to coming back to Japan after a two-year hiatus and we are receiving numerous enquiries for tour and travel arrangements,” she said.

“In Hokkaido, Malaysian tourists love to experience the winter season and the snow,” she said, alluding to the fact Malaysians don’t have to go far to the west but to a nearby country to experience winter.

She said JNTO has been promoting Japan as a travel destination via Facebook, Instagram and its website as well as online campaigns to lure and introduce Malaysians to the gems of Japan.

source – Bernama

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