Representatives of 16 big travel agencies from Japan will take part in a fact-finding trip in Vietnam next month to seek out business prospects and work with potential local partners over measures to promote travel between the two countries, a local newspaper reported.

The Saigon Times Daily quoted Vu The Binh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA), as saying that the association’s representative office in Japan was finalising preparations for members of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) to survey the Vietnamese market.

“They are the leading operators of domestic and outbound tours in Japan. This is an opportunity for our local companies,” Binh said.

Japan is an important market for Vietnam’s tourism sector, contributing more than 317,000 arrivals in the first half of this year, a year-on-year rise of 7.9 percent. Local travel agencies expect the number of Japanese visitors will jump this year owning to the new flights launched by Vietnam Airlines and close cooperation between tourism authorities of the two countries.

This month, the national flag carrier launched two new air routes connecting Vietnam’s Da Nang and Hanoi cities, and Japan’s Narita and Haneda airports near Tokyo, and is running many activities to drum up these new services.

JATA has identified Vietnam as one of the major markets for its members and Japanese travel firms have conducted more programmes for the Vietnamese market.

Binh said in addition to arranging the trip, the representative office of VITA is preparing a number of promotion programmes at some upcoming events in Japan and will organise theme seminars in Tokyo to build a strong bridge between travel firms of the two sides.

Vietnam looks to welcome one million Japanese visitors next year, 400,000 higher than last year.

Vietnam attracted more than 4.28 million international visitors in the first half of this year, up 21 percent year-on-year. Japan was the third biggest visitor-generating market in the period after China with 1.13 million and the Republic of Korea with 405,000.

In the opposite direction, many Vietnamese travel firms are expected to enjoy the relaxations of visa requirements from the Embassy of Japan.

The Saigon Times Daily said the Embassy will release the list of firms subjected to this loosened visa policy, adding that the move would help boost Vietnamese tourists to Japan in the time to come.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 17 announced to loosen visa requirements for citizens of Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, with multiple-entry visa requirements for Philippine and Vietnamese citizens relaxed significantly. Besides, single-entry visa requirements for tourists from these two countries are eased and almost equivalent to visa exemption if tourists apply for visa via an appointed travel agency.

The number of Vietnamese tourists to Japan increased to 90,000, an increase of 150 percent against last year's figure. The upward trend is forecast to continue growing this year thanks to promotion activities of Japan’s tourism body in Vietnam and its special policies offered to Vietnamese tourists.

Japan expects to attract 200,000 Vietnamese arrivals in 2015.-VNA