Japan’s state-run tourism agency wants to end a salary requirement imposed on individual mainland Chinese tourists to help boost visitor numbers and offset an aging domestic population.
“We want to make it easier for Chinese tourists to come to Japan,” Hiroshi Mizohata, head of the Japan Tourism Agency, said in an interview yesterday in Tokyo. “Tourism is key for Japanese growth.”
The agency wants to abolish the salary rule by as early as July and is seeking the necessary approvals from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, said Mizohata, who took over at the tourism agency on Jan. 4. At present, mainland Chinese travelers have to earn at least 250,000 yuan ($36,600) a year to get an individual tourism visa.
Japan has also boosted the tourism agency’s budget to help more than double the number of foreign visitors to 15 million over the next four years. Tourists from China, the fastest- growing major economy, increased about 1 percent last year while overall visitor numbers declined 19 percent, the first drop since 2003, because of the global recession.
Japan is focusing on boosting tourism partly because its population will probably fall 25 percent from 2005 to 95.2 million by 2050, according to a government forecast. The decline is because Japanese people are marrying later in life and having fewer children.
A total of 6.8 million overseas tourists visited Japan last year. Visitors from South Korea, the biggest source, slumped 33 percent, while there were 26 percent fewer from Taiwan, the second-largest market, according to figures from the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Tourists from China, the third-largest market, increased to 1.01 million last year from 1 million. Japan plans to attract 9 million Chinese visitors in 2019, Yoshiaki Hompo, the previous head of the Japan Tourism Agency, said in an interview in November.