Japan relaxes the ban on foreign tourism and allows guided package tours

TOKYO – Japan on Friday eased its limits on foreign tourists and started accepting applications, but only for those on guided package tours willing to follow mask-wearing and other anti-virus measures, as the country cautiously tries to ease business and infection worries in to reconcile.

Friday is the first day that immigration procedures begin and arrivals are not expected until late June at the earliest, although airport immigration and quarantine authorities stood by for possible arrivals.

The Japan Tourism Agency says tours will be accepted from 98 countries and regions, including the United States, Britain, China, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore, which are considered low risk of infection.

Japan’s partial resumption of international tourism is being conducted under guidelines based on an experiment conducted in late May. Around 50 participants were involved, mainly travel agents from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

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In one case, a tour for a group of four was canceled when one of the participants tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan.

As per the guidelines, attendees are encouraged to wear face masks most of the time and take out insurance to cover medical expenses in case they contract COVID-19. The rules do not place a cap on the number of people in a group, but guides must be present throughout the tour.

After being criticized for its strict border controls being xenophobic, Japan began easing restrictions earlier this year. On June 1, it doubled its daily entry limit to 20,000 people per day, including Japanese citizens, foreign students and some business travelers.

The daily limit will include package tour participants for now, and officials say it will be some time before foreign visitors can come to Japan for free individual tourism.

Japan’s inbound tourism business has been dormant during the pandemic, and while the country is welcoming tourists and their spenders, fears of infection remain among Japanese people, particularly in popular tourist destinations.

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Unlike most western countries where mask wearing has largely been abandoned, most people also wear them in situations e.g. B. outdoors in uncrowded environments where they are no longer needed.

Japan is still reporting more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, although Tokyo’s tally is below 2,000.

The latest mask-wearing rules require people to wear them on public transport, in hospitals and other public places. People can remove their masks outdoors when others are not around or speaking loudly.

It’s unclear how popular the package tour options will be with foreign tourists, most of whom will need to apply for tourist visas, which can take weeks to obtain. But the yen is trading at a 20-year low against the US dollar and weak against other major currencies, which would make traveling to the high-price country a bargain.

Foreign tourist arrivals fell more than 90% in 2020 from a record 31.9 million a year earlier, nearly erasing the more than 4 trillion yen ($30 billion) tourism market that arrived before the pandemic ) out.

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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/06/10/japan-eases-foreign-tourism-ban-allows-guided-package-tours/ Japan relaxes the ban on foreign tourism and allows guided package tours

Sarah Y. Kim

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