After more than two years into the pandemic, Japan is set to experiment with the new normal by allowing small groups of foreign tourists to enter the country from May 2022.
According to a report by Fuji News Network on 6 May, Japan aims to ease border restrictions and allow small groups of vaccinated tourists in an attempt to aid the country’s travel and tourism industry.
Though there are a number of ground restrictions in place, this announcement comes as positive news for the tourism sector that has been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
Japan border restrictions to ease: more details
Who can enter Japan?
On 17 May 2022, the Japan Tourism Agency announced that as part of this trial project to ‘test tourism’ and open borders for leisure travellers, the country will be accepting visitors from the US, Australia, Thailand and Singapore. They are viewed as countries with low COVID-19 risks and are major tourism markets for Japan.
The government had earlier said that visitors will be allowed to enter the country only if they meet all criteria set by the government. Those planning to travel have to take all three COVID-19 vaccination shots, purchase their own travel insurance and be a part of a package tour with a fixed itinerary. Though no specifications have been made about wearing masks, the government urges all to wear them. In fact, maximum locals continue to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.
Additionally, tourists will be monitored constantly with regard to the spread of cases. Only if there is no surge in positive cases, the programme will be further expanded. Though border regulations were slightly eased to allow overseas students and business professionals earlier, tourists were not allowed to enter.
The announcement and government deliberations
Earlier Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that authorities are planning to open borders, like other countries, from June. In his speech in London, Kishida also said that he will first take stock of the COVID-19 situation in Japan post the Golden Week holidays in late April and early May.
According to a Bloomberg report, on 5 May 2022, Kishida said, “As soon as June, based on the opinions of experts, we will review coronavirus regulations, including border policies, in stages.”
Boost to Japan’s tourism sector
The country’s tourism industry has been requesting the government to relax border restrictions and attract foreign visitors to take advantage of a weakened Yen, for a long time.
Before the pandemic, travellers’ footfall to the country had grown five times between 2011 and 2019. However, China — which has always been Japan’s largest source of tourists — has currently closed its borders due to a spike in cases. The aforementioned report also mentions, “Several tourism-related stocks gained on the news. Japan Airlines climbed as much as 4.5 percent, while Japan Airport Terminal surged 6.8 percent. Travel agency HIS, a sector bellwether, erased a morning loss and rose as much as 2.7 percent.”
PM Kishida, had only kept the borders open for students and business officials and had kept the daily inflow of foreign nationals to 10,000, which excluded tourists. Now, the government intends to increase the limit to 20,000 and accept tourists as well.
(Main and feature image credit: David Edelstein / @jlhopes/ Unsplash)