- United States
Japan is offering multiple entry visas to the wealthy Chinese to promote them tourism in three Tohoku prefectures namely Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi which were completely devastated after the March 2011 earthquakes and tsunami. Such measures are expected to jump start the economy of these three prefectures.
The multiple entry visas would only be available to certain tourists having a prerequisite income level. Under this multiple visa program the Chinese travel agencies are to provide assurance and certify that the visa holders would at least spend one night in any of the three prefectures. After doing so they are permitted to travel anywhere in Japan and are allowed staying for maximum 90 days in a single visit to Japan. These visas, once issued will be valid for 3 years from the date of issuance.
The program was started after seeing the success of a similar program for Okinawa last year which is credited with the visit of about 50,000 Chinese tourists to Japan.
But subsequently these expectations were proven to be a little too farfetched as the program fell victim to the negative image of the Fukushima prefecture due to the presence of a disaster stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. The presence of the damaged nuclear plant creates fear in the people about uncontrolled radiation contamination which keeps them from signing on to a trip to this region.
Due to this some Chinese travel agencies had to either change or completely abandon their group tour plans to Fukushima as no one showed up to sign on. The region welcomed its first tourist group in May. Arrival of this group paved way for a positive impression about the regions safety concerns. About 40 Chinese tourists took part in the tour and 9 in 10 agreed on recommending Fukushima as a travel destination to friends.
But Kenji Kokubun, head of Fukushima Prefecture’s office in Shanghai, said that it did not showed much change in attitudes of Chinese people in choosing Fukushima Prefecture over any other travel region in Japan. As the summer vacations have started, most of the Chinese traveling agencies have been promoting tour packages to other Japanese cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa. This caused the three regions of Tohoku to be sidelined and they were not featured in any of the packages.
On the whole, Chinese travelers are choosing Japanese cities as holiday destinations and the consulate general in Shanghai has reported one of the largest inflows of visa applications since 2010, ranging to 170,000 in numbers. The consul general also said that flights linking the Tohoku region with china are almost back to normal and this policy of issuing multiple visas is very timely. But Chinese tourists are still avoiding the Tohoku Prefectures as holiday destinations, something being attributed to the presence of the same disaster stricken nuclear power plant.
Even after seeing the ineffectiveness of the program to bring in tourists, the officials at the three prefectures have their hopes up and believe that the success at Okinawa will be seen again.
Kenji Kokubun says that unless the tourists from China see that things are completely under control in these three prefectures and spread the word, it is unlikely that things will turn positive.
Tags: Chinese tourists, Fukushima nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, multiple entry visas, Tohoku prefecture, Tourism, Tourism visa, visit visa