Chinese multiple-entry visas to Okinawa hit new record
The number of Chinese visitors entering Okinawa on multiple-entry visas hit a new record, as the entries with such visas increased to 60,298 in 2015. That is a 3.3-time increase from the previous year and 6.7 times higher than in 2011.
When the Government of Japan first introduced multi-entry visas for Chinese individual tourists visiting Okinawa in July 2011, the number of Chinese tourists with the visa was 8,964 that rapidly doubled the following year to 17,998. In fiscal 2013, the number dropped down sharply to 9,273 because of the friction in Japan-China relations due to the dispute over Senkaku Islands.
Meanwhile, the trend of weakening yen in the foreign exchange markets, and opening of new flight routes one after another between Okinawa and China took place, and the numbers grew again and increased to 18,353 in 2014.
Officials at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs point out that the successful increase in the multiple-visa entries can be contributed to the effects of the expanded and streamlined tax free shopping outlets, increased LCC services, and continuous promotions to attract visitors to Japan.
Professor Yoshiro Shimoji, from the Faculty of Tourism Sciences and Industrial Management at the University of the Ryukyus, said the increase indicates a high level of interest among Chinese people towards Okinawa, but he also pointed out the necessity of expediting the resort development and improvement in order to increase tourism revenue, particularly targeting affluent Chinese tourists.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are two different categories for multiple-visa entries depending on the income level of the individual visitor. The details below are quoted from the ministry’s website.
(B) Multiple-entry visas for individual tourists visiting Okinawa / Tohoku Region (Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi)
Multiple-entry individual tourist visas may be issued to those travelers who (1) stay at least one night in either Okinawa Prefecture or any prefecture in Tohoku Region (i.e. prefectures of Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi) and (2) meet the requirements described below. These visas are valid for 3 years, and the period of stay allowed for each visit is up to 30 days. If the applicant meets the requirements, his/her family members may also travel with the applicant or on their own. This is due to a relaxation of Japan’s visa policy introduced in January 2015. (With the introduction of this visa policy relaxation, the period of stay was reduced from 90 days to 30 days. However, those who have already been issued a multiple-entry visa with 90-day stay period may continue to use that visa with 90-day stay period, while his/her family may now travel on their own.)
In order to apply for these visa types, the applicant must prepare his/her own travel itinerary in advance, approach an approved Chinese travel agency to make further arrangements for travel, and then lodge the visa application through the travel agency for the first visit. The applicant need not make travel arrangements through the travel agency for his/her second visit onwards.
The applicant must have either:
(1) a sufficient level of financial capability, or
(2) a certain level of financial capability and traveled to Japan at least once in the last three years for a short-term visit. The applicant must be able to demonstrate the visit.
(C) Multiple-entry visas for individuals with a substantially high level of income
Multiple-entry individual tourist visas may be issued to those travelers who have a substantially high level of income. The same type of visas may also be issued to the applicant’s family members. These visas are valid for five years and the period of stay allowed for each visit is 90 days. Unlike the “Multiple-entry visas for individual tourists visiting Okinawa / Tohoku Region (Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi)”, the visas issued under this category imposes no requirement to visit any specific destination in Japan.
The applicant seeking this type of visa must prepare his/her own travel itinerary in advance, approach an approved Chinese travel agency to make further arrangements for the travel, and to lodge the visa application through the travel agency. The applicant need not make travel arrangements through the travel agency for his/her second visit onwards.”