[Travel News] Japan Reopens With Guided Tours

Japan said on Tuesday that “test tourism” whereby small groups of travellers on package tours in the country this month will be conducted experimentally, which serves as a first step to gather information before a full border opening.

Though tourism was formerly an important source of revenue for Japan, travellers have been barred from entering since the country implemented rigorous border restrictions in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began.

The rules have been slightly relaxed to allow students and some business travellers to access. Individual tourists, on the other hand, are still forbidden, despite demands from business executives to revive tourism to take advantage of the Yen's 20-year lows.

Japan's Tourism Agency announced that small group tours will be allowed to enter starting later this month as "test cases" in order to gather information for a wider reintroduction of tourism at an undisclosed later date.

Japan’s tourism is suffering. Image from Pexels

Tourists from the United States, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore who have been triple-vaccinated will be allowed to participate in the trips, which will be meticulously prepared in coordination with travel companies and accompanied at all times by tour conductors, according to the statement.

“This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind,” it stated.

Outbound travel agencies in these countries are overjoyed by the news.

Ong Hanjie, director of EU Holidays in Singapore, is one of them, and he expressed "excitement" and "confidence" in Japan's latest reopening announcement. Prior to the reopening of the latter, the company has been in discussions with various government representatives and prefectures in Japan.

The government official stated that the government is considering permitting 50 tourists to participate in the trial package tours, but that number has yet to be determined.

Tourists who participate must also have private health insurance.

The current testing standards for entry into the nation will remain unchanged. Visitors must submit a negative Covid test 72 hours prior to departure and retest upon arrival.

This latest move comes as local businesses and the international community lobby Japan to reopen the border.

Earlier in May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan would reopen its borders to tourism this year, in accordance with other G7 countries, but he did not specify when this would happen.

The existing border entrance restrictions in Japan enable 10,000 new entrants every day, although this does not include tourists. Citizens, residents, researchers, students, residents' family members, and business travellers with prior consent are allowed to access for the time being. Depending on where they are coming from, some may be subject to quarantine. 

Kishida announced in another press conference on May 5th that Japan will implement gradual changes. Japan recently celebrated national holidays on April 29 and May 3–5, during which millions of Japanese people travelled domestically. This is viewed as an ideal opportunity to put the current mandate to the test, and the government will assess the impact before making any further decisions.

The Japan tourism industry has been urging the government for several months to allow international visitors to enter the country. For the last decade, tourism has been one of the most important sources of income for the country. However, the raging pandemic forces the government to tighten security measures, resulting in a drop in visitor numbers.

Despite the fact that thousands of people are infected every day in Tokyo and other Japanese cities, experts believe that loosening border controls to some extent would have no negative consequences, though the country's medical system would have to be closely monitored to avoid becoming overburdened.

Khoa Pham

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.