Japan Re-Opens To Mass Tourism, Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions

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Key Takeaways

  • Japan welcomes international travelers post-pandemic with relaxed border laws.
  • Tourists need triple vaccination or a recent negative test for entry.
  • Visitor limits were raised and fully lifted as of October 11.
  • Solo travelers must use Japanese travel agencies for bookings.
  • Domestic tourism is boosted with financial subsidies under the National Travel Discount program.

Welcoming the World: Japan Eases Border Restrictions

Since easing border laws after the pandemic, Japan has added itself to the list of countries welcoming international visitors.

Like most economies highly dependent on foreign investment and tourism, Japan suffered major setbacks across various industries after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Japan, however, will require visitors to produce documents showing that they had received three doses of an approved vaccination or a negative test result conducted 72 hours before departure.

According to a report by ‘The Japan Times, the country had opened its borders to limited visitors, specifically traveling in groups for strictly guided tours in June this year. 

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Initially, there was a limit of 20,000 daily visitors, which was increased to 50,000. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that all caps and restrictions would be dropped on October 11. 

The report states that according to a government official, individual travelers (non-group) could enter the country only if they booked flights and accommodation through a Japanese travel agency.

Stimulating Travel: Japan’s New Measures to Boost Tourism

After receiving much criticism domestically and internationally for their strict and prolonged border laws, authorities formulated international and domestic schemes to stimulate the weak travel sector. 

Kyoto News agency reported that foreign visitors didn’t need a visa if they traveled from one of the 68 countries or regions with which Japan had a waiver before the pandemic. Domestically, the nation started the National Travel Discount program, which offers “a financial (travel) subsidy of up to 11,000 yen ($76) per person per night up to a total of seven nights (exclusively to residents). The program started in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, except Tokyo, which will join on October 20.” 

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“The coronavirus pandemic dealt a major blow to the tourism industry, and the travel subsidy program will be meaningful” in reviving it, said Keiichiro Kobayashi, macroeconomics professor at Keio University in Tokyo, speaking to Kyodo News. “Unless a new, highly virulent variant of the virus emerges, there is no need to stop economic activities, and it is appropriate for prefectural governments to make their decisions based on the status of the local medical system,” Kobayashi added.

According to a Phocuswright (a travel industry research organization) report, tourism brought in $108 billion in gross bookings in 2019. The report estimates that it would be at least three years before they can reach similar figures. 

What We Think

Japan’s reopening signifies a crucial shift towards revitalizing its tourism-dependent economy. The careful balance between continued health safeguards and the removal of visitor caps reflects a strategic approach to recovery.

The introduction of domestic travel incentives underlines Japan’s commitment to reviving its travel sector. While it may take time to match pre-pandemic tourism revenues, Japan’s strategic easing of restrictions and domestic stimulus measures show promise for a robust resurgence of its travel industry.

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Aqil K
Aqil K
Aqil writes about travel, tourism, and covers the many aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle.

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