THE surge of Filipino visitors to Japan will continue to increase this year, thanks to the additional flights from key cities such as Cebu.

Akito Tadokoro, director of marketing and promotion of the Tourist Promotion Dept. of Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau, is confident more Filipinos will pick Japan as their next vacation destination because of the additional direct routes from Manila and Cebu.

Last Wednesday, Tadokoro and his team were in Cebu to promote Tokyo, Japan’s capital, which offers new sights for foreign tourists to explore.

The growing number of Filipinos who travel abroad for leisure and business is also an opportunity for Japan to capture.

“We now have many direct flights, which puts us in a better position to promote more of Japan,” he said. The strengthened economic relationship between Japan and the Philippines is a welcome development for both countries, especially for tourism, the official said.

Last year some 347,800 Filipinos visited Japan, according data from the Japan National Tourism Organization. The country logged 24 million foreign tourists in 2016.

By 2020, Japan aims to welcome 40 million tourists.

Tokyo-based budget carrier Vanilla Air launched last December its direct flights between Tokyo and Cebu. Cebu’s connection to Japan is being serviced by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air.

More plans are in progress to lure more guests to Japan such as the expanded number of hotel rooms and retail shops.

According to Tadokoro, more than 10,000 rooms were added in 2015 to 2016. More than 4,000 rooms will be added this year.

Japan’s largest commercial complex called Ginza Six will also open this year. It will house 241 foreign brands, of which half are flagship stores. Another mixed-use complex called Shibuya Stream will also open by 2018.

Aside from adding more rooms and retail shops, Tokyo enhanced its tourism culture. The tourism department has set up a multilingual call center service and a Tokyo tourist information center in Shinjuku bus terminal to cater to the needs of foreign tourists.

The official added they have installed interactive digital signs for tourists can be accessed through their smartphones.

In 2014, Japan loosened its rules for applicants of multiple visas from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. In addition to the relaxation of visa issuance requirements, the period of validity will be extended for up to five years.

These measures, according to the Japan Embassy in Manila, are expected to boost arrivals in Japan and promote people-to-people exchanges.