Chinese tourists flock to Japan, boost economy (3)

12:22, July 05, 2010      

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"The Chinese economy is booming, and China's demand for overseas travel, especially among wealthy people, is about to explode," says Kouichi Ueno, chief official of the international tourism promotion division at the government-run Japan Tourism Agency.

Thanks to years of rapid growth, China now has the world's fourth largest population of millionaires after the United States, Japan and Germany, according to a Merrill Lynch Wealth Management/Capgemini survey.

To cash in on China's rising wealth, Tokyo will start to issue tourist visas to Chinese who hold gold cards -- credit cards granted to those above a certain income level with good credit histories -- or who earn more than 60,000 yuan ($8,800) annually.

That's down sharply from a previous income requirement of 250,000 yuan ($37,000) per year, a threshold that apparently was imposed to keep low-income earners from staying on and becoming illegal aliens.

The revised income requirement is still well above the average income for a Chinese city dweller -- 19,000 yuan ($2,800) last year.

For Chinese tourists, shopping is the most popular activity while in Japan. Zhang Qin, a 31-year-old tourist from Beijing, says the No. 1 appeal of Japanese products is their perceived superior quality.
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