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Japan widens tourist visa policy

WEALTHY city tourists will be able to organize their own trips to Japan when the Japanese tourism authority starts issuing individual tourist visas to Chinese mainland people in July.
The Japan Tourism Agency advised local travel agencies of the new visa policy yesterday, today's Oriental Morning Post reported.
Visas will be issued to people in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou from July 1, and this will be expanded to all cities on the Chinese mainland from July next year, the report said.
Those applying for the visas must be "well-off" with a yearly income of over 250,000 yuan (US$36,597.64), the Japanese tourism authority told the agencies. But it did not say what proof of income was required.
People must submit their visa applications through one of 11 local travel agencies and book air tickets and hotels at the agencies.
The Tourism Agency has set the income requirement to prevent tourists illegally overstaying, industry insiders said.
The agency hopes the new visa policy will attract 250,000 more tourists from the Chinese mainland each year in addition to the current 1 million.
But local travel agencies doubt that the new policy will work, suggesting the high income requirement will be a hindrance.
Japan's earlier introduction of family visas for Chinese tourists had little appeal for local tourists, they said.
Before that the Japanese government only issued tourist visas to groups of between five and 40 Chinese.
Japan started offering group visas from March last year to tourists traveling by themselves or in family groups. But only 10 people from four families had used this by the end of the year.
Travel agencies said that traveling to Japan by oneself or in small groups is much more expensive than joining a group tour.
Japan will ask an outside company to handle part of the visa work next year to make the process more efficient, the Oriental Morning Post reported.


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