From October, Japan will remove severe border restrictions relating to the virus, allowing for mass tourism for the first time in 2.5 years. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that individual travel and visa-free entrance would resume on October 11 as the third-largest economy in the world attempts to rebuild its connections with the rest of the globe.
“We are a nation that has flourished through the free flow of people, goods and capital,” In connection with the UNGA, Kishida, who is now in the US, stated on Thursday. “COVID-19, of course, interrupted all of these benefits, but from October 11, Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the US, as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel.”
With China still having not announced plans to relax its rigorous border controls, the action distinguishes Japan as being one of the last economies to resume widespread travel and tourism. Japan has only allowed tourists on pre-packaged tours and has a daily arrival cap that is now set at 50,000 as part of a partial relaxation of restrictions that have been in place since June. Visitors to the nation must also apply for visas.
Just 8,000 international visitors arrived in July, compared to about 3 million in the same month of 2019. The stringent restrictions have made foreign tourists mostly avoid the country. Tourism and business organisations urged the government to reopen the borders, warning that if they didn't Japan may fall behind as the rest of the world learned to live with the virus.
Japan experienced some of the highest COVID case counts in the world last month despite its isolation, with daily infections exceeding 250,000, even if the nation's overall death toll is still among the lowest globally.
The reopening of Japan, according to Gary Bowerman, director of the travel and tourism research company Check-in Asia, would serve as "a major barometer" for the recovery of travel in the Asia Pacific, which has trailed behind other regions of the world.
“It is a popular year-round destination, a vital source of travellers for the region and an integral player in the Asia Pacific aviation sector,” Al Jazeera was informed by Bowerman, whose business is situated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“The opening is timed for the usually popular winter season. Like all countries in the Asia Pacific, however, pre-pandemic tourism to Japan was heavily influenced by the Chinese outbound market. The pace and scale of an inbound travel recovery will be dependent on how quickly airlines are able to rebuild capacity.”
“There is certainly pent-up demand for travel to Japan, but as with other country reopenings we’ve seen in the region, that demand may not be unleashed immediately,” Bowerman added.
“I think it will be a case of managing expectations in the next few months, but travel flows will start to scale up, both inbound and outbound.”