23:27 10 February 2017
Growing trend of Filipinos visiting Japan seen to continue
By Ronron Calunsod
MANILA, Feb. 10, Kyodo
The increasing number of Filipinos visiting Japan is seen to continue in the coming years because of the ease in getting visa, the affordable travel cost and the financial stability of more Filipinos, travel and tour executives said Friday.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, Japan received close to 350,000 visitors from the Philippines last year, almost 30 percent up from nearly 269,000 in 2015.
In 2014, when Japan started implementing its relaxed visa policy for the Philippines to encourage more tourists, it received over 184,000 visitors, higher by 70 percent from only 108,351 the previous year.
"It's growing because of the visa (relaxation). It's easy to go to Japan right now. And as of now, even average income-earners can go to Japan because of the low-cost carriers like Cebu Pacific and Jetstar," Shintaro Yoshida, operations manager of H.I.S. (Philippines) Travel Corp., told Kyodo News during the opening of the 2017 Travel Tour Expo in Manila organized by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.
Expressing the same prospects, Yasunari Kamimura of Universal Holidays Inc., said other factors include the Japanese government's massive promotion, and the natural urge of Filipinos to visit Japan. "So, (these two factors) meet now," he said.
"But most especially, it's the Filipinos' financial stability, their buying power now. And they are not just satisfied with spending more for some leisure. Japan is now their target," Kamimura added.
Kazumichi Araki of the Manila office of All Nippon Airways said that "repeaters" or frequent travelers to Japan within a year "are also getting bigger" because of their desire to experience other destinations there.
He noted each area in Japan, like Tokyo, Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Osaka, among others, offer different experiences for travelers.
"Filipinos would like to experience snow in Japan. Or when Filipinos go to Kyoto, they can see shrines," Araki told Kyodo News.
Kamimura said that aside from availing affordable package tours from travel agencies like UHI, some Filipinos arrange their own flights and accommodation bookings.
"We call them the free, independent tourists. That market is really growing. So we need to be agile," he said.
Meanwhile, acknowledging the growing number of outbound Filipino tourists, Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said she is encouraging Filipinos to travel domestically first, before exploring foreign destinations.
"It's better to travel in our country first," she said, adding that to make up for the outbound travelers, she is actively inviting more foreign tourists to visit the Philippines whenever she is abroad.
Close to 6 million foreign tourists visited the Philippines last year, up by more than 11 percent from 2015, with South Koreans topping the list.
Marlene Jante, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association, said "both inbound and outbound (tourists) help the government in generating income," noting that every Filipino who travels abroad pays the Philippine travel tax.