Earlier this summer, the Japanese government announced that it would ease its strict visa restrictions for Chinese travelers effective July 1, in a move designed to boost tourism revenue and help Japan catch up with other Asian countries like South Korea and Thailand that have benefitted from increased Chinese outbound tourism. Although the plans were not free of controversy, Japanese tourism officials were confident that a rise in the number of mainland Chinese tourists issued individual visas would help offset the declining numbers of Korean and Taiwanese tourists, and that the notorious spending habits of Chinese visitors of a certain economic standing would be a boon for the Japan's ailing retail market. With a strengthening yuan, tourism officials argue, the spending power of Chinese tourists could become even more pronounced.
According to figures released this week, the easing of visa restrictions for Chinese -- which lowered the minimum income required for a tourist visa from 250,000 yuan (US$36,783) to 60,000 yuan ($8,828) -- saw a spike in the number of Chinese arrivals in Japan last month. As a Japanese tourism official told the Global Times, 8,086 Chinese tourists arrived in Japan between July 1 and 31, a significant rise over the 3,458 who flew in between June 1-30.
Also this week, as the Kyodo News Agency added, China may allow Japanese travel agencies to sell services to Chinese travelers going to Japan:
"We are now preparing to revise (relevant) laws," [Chinese National Tourism Administration Chairman Shao Qiwei] was quoted as saying in a meeting with Japanese Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara, now on a four-day Chinese visit, according to Japanese officials accompanying Maehara.
Maehara later told Japanese reporters, "Japanese companies would be able to offer a wide range of travel plans to Chinese people who travel to Japan repeatedly, as they have explored tourism routes most extensively."
Now that Japanese tourism authorities have managed to significantly increase the number of Chinese tourists hitting the country's shores, it's just got to answer the million-dollar question: How can we get them to spend more on everything but shopping?