Japan’s key travel players have called for the country to reopen to tourists fully or be left behind in global tourism.
Representatives of some of the largest tourism groups, including the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), the Japan Hotel Association, railway companies and major airlines submitted a formal request to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism over fears that Japan’s restrictive border policy would see travellers lose interest in visiting the country in the long-term.
Hiroyuki Takahashi, JATA chairperson, said: “We believe the weaker yen will help the tourism industry and we see this as a business tailwind. It should be a great opportunity for the government to bring tourists back to Japan.”
The report recommends scrapping the government’s daily entry cap (currently at 10,000 pax) and lowering its Covid-19 warning level. It said inbound tourism would be vital to achieving a V-shaped economic recovery from Covid-19 and warned that Japan is one of few countries that remains closed to tourists.
The group’s document, submitted May 12, goes much further than the reopening plans shared by the government on May 6, which is to allow small group tours from overseas this month as a trial. The government also announced on May 11 its intentions to double the daily entry cap on overseas arrivals to 20,000 pax in June.
Triple-vaccinated travellers from Thailand, Singapore, Australia and the US will be allowed to join the small group tours because these countries have a lower risk of variants and level of infection has stabilised, according to the Japanese government. Travellers on these tours must follow a strict itinerary, and be accompanied at all times by tour conductors. Only 50 travellers will be allowed in May for this trial, to facilitate “information-gathering” before this is offered to overseas visitors in June.
Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said May 17 that the government would “move forward with the plan while trying to achieve a balance between socio-economic activities and anti-coronavirus measures.”