Friendlier visa policy of Japan to have little effect on tourist flow
Recent facilitation of the visa regime with Japan will not affect the flow of tourists from Russia, say tour operators, most of which have been quite skeptic about the Japanese government's innovation. New rules came into force on October 30. Since that day, any Russian citizen has an opportunity to get a single-entry visa valid for up to three months and to stay in Japan for no more than 90 days. Besides that, certain categories of Russian citizens received the right to apply for a three-year entry permit.
The Head of the department of Japan at the Vand International Tour company, Ms. Natalia Minorskaya, doesn't expect the new regulations to drive the flow of tourist to Japan: "Hardly any of our clients book a trip for longer than two weeks; mostly because of high price tag. For example, an 11-day package including the flights stands in almost $5.5 thousand per person."
Ms. Natalia Dalbinova, the sales director of the Oriental Discovery company, agrees with her colleague. However, she noted an increase in visa application processing time. Sometimes, instead of four business days, the wait lasts up to two weeks. Besides, all applicants still have to present original invitation letter from the receiving party.
On the bright side, Ms. Oksana Loban of the Astravel company is sure that slight inconveniences of Japanese visa application procedure actually play into tour operator's hands as thanks to this they get to handle the lion's share of the tourist flow.
According to the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), during the first nine months of the current year, the land of the rising sun welcomed 45 thousand Russian tourists, which is 33% more than a year before. The travel trade confirms the positive trend and reports almost complete recovery of the tourist flow that dropped to zero after the devastating earthquake in 2011. "This year, we managed to come to the same successful level of sales we had in 2008," Ms. Loban explained.
The demand for Japan at the Vand International tour is twice as good as it was last year; although the tourist flow has been quite unsteady. Thus, this year's cherry blossom and May holidays were a great success, while autumn tours to see red maple trees were not that popular. Apart from traditional itineraries including visits to Tokyo and Kyoto, continues Natalia Minorskaya, the Russians has been taking interest in more exotic destination such as Jigokudani – home of the famous snow monkeys.
Despite tremendous promotional efforts of Japan's tourism authorities, local ski resorts are not in-demand with the Russians so far. At the same time, the sales have been fairly active – there have already been some bookings for next year's cherry blossom and May holidays.