Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced recently that, beginning September 7, Japan will permit the admission of unaccompanied tourists on package tours and increase the daily arrival limit to 50,000. This is a big step toward the complete return of tourism.
“In countries worldwide, international exchange is growing. To participate in these exchanges and to benefit from the weaker yen, we will raise the daily arrival cap to 50,000 from Sept. 7, as well as allow (tourists on) nonguided tours from all countries to enter the country,” Kishida said.
The prime minister also stated that he will examine further reducing restrictions based on domestic and international conditions in an effort to bring border policies in line with those of other members of the Group of Seven.
Since June, Japan has permitted foreign tourists to enter the nation, but only on guided excursions. A government official stated that the government has not yet defined what constitutes a package tour, but that guidelines will be issued in the coming days.
A tourism ministry official stated, however, that tourists will still be required to have “sponsors,” or travel agencies in Japan that they can contact if they contract the coronavirus. This means that individual tourists, such as backpackers travelling without a sponsor, will not be permitted to enter Japan.
The rigorous, guided tours have proven to be unpopular with foreign tourists, so the newest declaration will be excellent news for the country’s ailing tourism industry. According to the Immigration Services Agency, just 8,155 foreign tourists visited Japan in the two months leading up to the end of July.
72% of about 1,700 respondents in a July online survey conducted by the tourism marketing agency D2C X indicated they would or were likely to stop visiting Japan if the existing border regulations remained in place.
Currently, international visitors to Japan must book a guided tour and then apply for a visa, a lengthy process that discourages travel to the country. The Japanese government will no longer conduct pre-arrival PCR tests from September 7 if travellers have received three doses of an approved vaccine.
The daily arrival limit will be increased to 50,000, or 2.5 times the existing amount of 20,000. This includes both Japanese nationals and international residents. The number has increased gradually during the previous six months. The number was 3,500 in February, but was increased to 10,000 in April and 20,000 in June.
President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Om Prakash applauded the most recent relaxation of border restrictions.
Prakash stated in an email, “The ACCJ believes these are important steps toward reviving the economy.”
He continued, “We highly encourage Japan to align travel policies with other G7 countries, and in order to restore Japan’s reputation as a welcoming and open place, the government should move quickly to restore visa waiver eligibility for business travelers and tourists from countries of origin previously eligible for visa-free entry.”