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Insurance firms focus on 'inbound insurance' for visitors to Japan

Major non-life insurance firms are focusing their efforts on the sale of "inbound insurance" to foreign visitors coming to Japan that covers illness and injury, it has been learned.

With the number of inbound tourists rapidly increasing, there has been a spate of uninsured foreigners receiving medical care before returning home without paying -- prompting insurance firms to offer and promote "inbound insurance" to individual travelers as well as companies involved in their trips.

According to the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), the number of foreigners visiting Japan in 2016 hit a record high of about 24.04 million. As the nation looks toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government is aiming to increase this number to 40 million by the year 2020.

However, in a survey conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency, it was found that approximately 30 percent of people who visit Japan enter the country without having any travel insurance. It is thought that this leads to the non-payment of medical costs in the event of such tourists visiting hospitals due to illness or injury during their stay. Furthermore, a separate survey found that, in 2016, 30 percent of hospitals in Osaka Prefecture that treated foreign visitors to Japan experienced cases of non-payment of medical bills.

In February 2016, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. started selling insurance to visitors coming to Japan that could easily be purchased with either a smartphone or through the internet upon entering the country. The insurance premium starts at 440 yen per day, and the maximum amount of compensation for medical costs is 10 million yen. The company is encouraging visitors to buy this "inbound insurance" by appealing through places such as hotels and tourist attractions.

In addition, major non-life insurance firms are also selling insurance to Japan-based businesses that are involved in foreign visitors' trips. In January 2016, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Co. started selling insurance to tour companies and hotels that compensates up to 1 million yen per person, if a tourist is involved in an accident or becomes ill. A representative of one of the insurance companies commented on this service, "From tour companies' and hotels' points of view, it enhances the quality of their services to customers."

Tokio Marine and Nichido Fire Insurance Co. is also increasing its range of services to client hotels and travel-related firms through advice on how to attract more customers, through means such as advertising, and conducting surveys relating to customer satisfaction.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics on the horizon, the level of competition among insurers providing services to tourists is likely to become even fiercer.

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