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Japan Reopens Borders

Japan reopened its border to individual tourists on October 11. 


 


On June 9, Japan reopened its border to tourists, but they had to be part of a guided tour with no freedom of movement. After September 7, tourists were able to visit Japan, but they had to buy a package tour through a Japanese travel agency, meaning that tourists did not have to be part of a guided tour but must have their accommodations arranged through a Japanese travel bureau. That was done so that the government knew where tourists were at all times. 


 


Also, the visa waiver program was suspended before October 11, and all visitors to Japan needed to apply for a visa when the country reopened for tourism in June. In addition, people were required to book a package tour before applying for a visa. Visitors also needed to buy travel insurance. 


 


However, on October 11, tourists were able to travel under the visa waiver program as all pandemic restrictions were lifted. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, there were minimal travel restrictions, including a no-visa regime for citizens of 68 different countries. Japan also waived mandatory travel agency bookings. Both unvaccinated and vaccinated tourists who are not boosted need to provide negative test results. 


 


After June 9, there was no significant increase in tourism because many foreigners did not want to be forced into a guided tourThere were only about 500,000 visitors in 2022, compared to 31.8 million visitors in 2019. According to the Japan Business Federation, 80 percent of visitors before the pandemic were not part of a guided tour. In September, the yen dropped 1.7 percent against the US dollar, which was its lowest point in 24 years. Although the yen is weak, Japan could not take advantage of a weak currency for tourism. In September, the Japan Association of Travel Agent's spokesperson said they "are grateful for the weak yen, but foreign tourists are still required to obtain visas." They said that they would like to see the Japanese government take one more step to ease the situation, and the Japanese government did that on October 11. 


 


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that he would like to see $34 billion in tourist spending, although it is expected to be lower, at only $14 billion


 


Japan is not expected to get as many visitors as it had before the pandemic. Many places require masks in Japan, and visitors who do not want to wear a mask may opt for other countries. Visitor spending is expected to be lower than before the pandemic until 2025. Also, there is a shortage of workers in tourism. In August, 73 percent of hotels did not have enough regular workers


 


The Japanese government started a subsidy program for travelers, who will receive discounts on trips and coupons to spend. The program will end in December. 


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