Japan might grant visa waivers to tourists from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam when it revises its tourism action plan in June, government sources said Monday.
The initiative, backed by the government and the ruling coalition, is aimed at Southeast Asia, whose vast Muslim population is expected to play a crucial role in achieving Japan’s goal of 20 million visitors a year in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also views tourism as a pillar of its economic growth strategy in the battle against deflation.
Last year, tourism from Thailand and Malaysia surged 61 percent to a combined 630,000 from the previous year after visas were waived last July. That helped Japan break the 10 million mark for the first time.
Roughly 140,000 Indonesians, 110,000 Filipinos and 80,000 Vietnamese visited Japan last year. The three ranked high behind China among the Southeast Asian countries that still need visas to enter Japan.
A visa waiver, however, would change all that, given the growing demand for overseas travel resulting from their strong economic growth, observers say.
Visa overstay violations among short-term visitors from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam from January to November last year meanwhile remained in the relatively low range of between 0.09 percent and 0.34 percent.
By country and region, China, South Korea and Taiwan send the most people to Japan.
To attain the 20 million goal, Japan needs to step up efforts to attract more people from the region, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.
Japan has waived visas for short-term visitors from South Korea, Taiwan and 64 other countries and regions, if their intended purpose is to sightsee or visit relatives.
South Korea, which rivals Japan as one of the main tourist destinations in East Asia, has also eased its visa policy.