Japan to welcome tourists from 98 countries again

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After closing to foreign tourists for more than two years, Japan will allow a wide range of leisure travelers to return next month – with conditions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Thursday that from June 10, the country will welcome visitors on package tours, which include transportation and accommodation. Tourists from 98 countries with low coronavirus infection rates will be allowed in; the United States is part of this group. The wider reopening in June follows a small trial that saw around 50 people on organized tours visit 12 prefectures, starting this week.

“Step by step, we will strive to accept [tourists] as we have done in normal times, taking into account the state of infections,” he said.

Visitors from low-risk countries will not need to show proof of vaccination and will not need to self-isolate or test themselves upon arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. According to a checklist published by Japan’s National Tourism Organization, travelers must present proof of a negative test within 72 hours of departing for the country.

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The number of people allowed to enter the country daily will increase to 20,000 from the current cap of 10,000. The current number includes business travellers, foreign workers and students, but not tourists.

Japan has tightly controlled its borders throughout the pandemic and continued to ban tourists even after many other Asian destinations began welcoming visitors. With leisure travelers banned, only 250,000 visited the country last year, compared to more than 30 million a year before the pandemic.

The country’s tourism agency estimated that just over 100,000 people visited the country between January and March compared to more than 8 million people during the same period in 2019.

Seino Satoshi, president of the Japan National Tourism Organization, said in a statement that the group was working with local governments, destination marketing organizations, domestic and foreign travel agencies, airlines and others to prepare the restart of inbound travel.

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“I wholeheartedly welcome the accelerating pace at which the international community is preparing for the resumption of tourism travel,” he said. “The government has announced a policy that Japan will take steps to join this effort. I see this as a first step towards the recovery of inbound tourism in Japan. »

Peggy Goldman, president and co-owner of tour operator Friendly Planet Travel, said on Friday her company was preparing to bring tourists back to Japan. Given the limits on the number of people who can come to the country, she expects the return to be slow.

“Honestly, I don’t believe we’ll be able to actually start a solid touring schedule until next spring,” she said.

“There is demand,” she says. “We will be able to gauge the demand we have once we tell people we are starting to take bookings.”

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