Japan on 22 September announced that it will lift tough Covid restrictions on foreign tourists, reopening the borders after two and a half years. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during his speech at the United Nations, said that individual visitors will be allowed and visa-free travel will be reinstated from 11 October 2022. The daily cap on visitors will also end. By Manas Sengupta
Kishida added that discounts for domestic travel will also be introduced with the new announcements.
This comes on the heels of 31 August announcement that the country will allow more than double the number of daily visitors as well as non-guided package tours.
How Japan started its reopening
Relaxation of COVID-19 rules
Japan opened its doors to foreign tourists in June under a series of strict rules including that visitors will have to take guided tours, be triple vaccinated, and have private medical insurance.
The Japan Times noted that foreign tourists who were visiting under the strict guided package tours were unhappy with the system. This has also resulted in a very small number of visitors to the country.
However, these official statements make it evident that Tokyo is aiming to revive the economy and regain the pre-pandemic figures. This is also the time when the Yen has stooped to its lowest levels against the US dollar in nearly a century’s quarter. Thus, it makes the island nation a lucrative, attractive and quite an inexpensive place to visit for foreign travellers.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, said earlier this week that the government will change laws to help hotels retain more guests. Currently, wearing face masks continue widely in the country, though it is not legally binding.
Aim to boost Japan’s tourism economy
A Bloomberg report states that in the pre-pandemic time Japan allowed visitors from 68 countries, including the US and Singapore, to stay for 90 days without a visa. The country saw an unprecedented rise in footfall which reached 32 million in 2019, dipping to about 246,000 in 2021.
Earlier, on 24 August, Kishida announced that travellers to Japan who have been vaccinated with three doses will not be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result starting 7 September.
“We will continue relaxing these measures gradually,” Kishida had told the press at the time. “We hope to announce something soon based on the quarantine set-up and the situation with infections.”
At that time other Asian and European countries were readily easing border restrictions to allow business and tourism. Therefore, Japanese business houses urged him to throw the doors open as the pandemic is receding.