Japan to allow small group tours, including visitors from Singapore, as step towards full reopening

TOKYO: Japan announced on Tuesday (May 17) that it would start conducting “test tourism” in the form of limited package tours in May to gather information ahead of a full reopening of the country to tourism.

Although tourism has been a major pillar of Japan’s economy, tourists have not been allowed entry since it enacted strict border controls in 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Regulations have been relaxed slightly to allow students and some business travelers to enter. But individual tourists remain banned despite pleas from industry leaders who hope to revive tourism to take advantage of the yen, which has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

The Tourism Agency said on Tuesday it would start allowing small-group tours to enter from the end of the month as a “test case” to gain insights for a wider tourism recovery at an unspecified future date.

Triple-vaccinated tourists from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore will be allowed to participate in the tours, which will be strictly planned in conjunction with travel agencies and accompanied at all times by tour guides, it said. -he adds. in a report.

“This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind,” he said. .

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said earlier this month during a speech in London that he would bring Japan’s border controls in line with those of other wealthy democracies in June, but no further details were given. , including when the country will fully open its borders to tourists again. .

The government is aiming for a “gradual easing” of border measures that balances infection controls and ease of entry into the country, said Makoto Shimoaraiso, an official with the Cabinet Secretariat for Japan’s COVID-19 response.

“We are currently discussing concrete plans for border measures after June, including quarantine measures such as testing and (status) standby,” he added.

In 2019, Japan welcomed 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent 4.81 trillion yen.

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