The government will examine relaxing visa requirements to encourage more tourists from emerging nations in Southeast Asia to visit Japan, sources in the Abe administration said Saturday.
The move comes as the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has determined it is necessary to lure more travelers from fast-growing economies to attain its goal of increasing the annual number of foreign visitors to 25 million by 2020, the sources said.
The government is expected to consider waiving visas for tourists from Thailand and Malaysia as well as offering multiple-entry visas to travelers from the Philippines and Vietnam, according to the sources.
In 2012, Japan welcomed 260,000 visitors from Thailand, 130,000 from Malaysia, 90,000 from the Philippines and 60,000 from Vietnam.
As there are concerns that relaxing visa requirements could result in an increase in the number of foreign nationals working illegally in the country, government entities including the Japan Tourism Agency, the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry will discuss the matter until the summer, the sources said.
In addition, the government will examine expanding the issuance of multiple-entry visas for Chinese nationals — that has been limited to stays in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Okinawa prefectures — to those staying elsewhere in Japan to boost their numbers, they said.
The number of visitors from China has declined amid the soured bilateral relations over the Senkakus territorial dispute.
According to the JTA, 8.37 million foreign travelers came to Japan in 2012.