Japan’s economy may force the hand of its strict border restrictions. Photo / Jezael Melgoza-lay, Unsplash
Travel businesses and a softening currency may force the hand of one of the slowest countries to re-open to travellers post-pandemic.
Japan’s tourism officials have hinted that it would be dropping caps on inbound tourists in the “not so distant future”.
Tourism has been seen as a way to prop up the local economy, which saw a 24-year-low against the US dollar this week. Instead of
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara told local television that a soft yen would be “effective in attracting inbound tourism”.
“Japan has seasonal attractions in fall and winter. We know there are a lot of people overseas who want to come to Japan,” he told the Fuji Television broadcast.
There was also the suggestion that the current 50,000 visitor cap on international tourists could soon be relaxed. Some reports suggested the raising of restrictions could come as soon as this week.
Since a closed trial on guided tourism in June – allowing just 50 visitors to test safe tourism protocols – the country has been slowly easing travel restrictions on international visitors.
This month Japan dropped the requirements for visitors to be part chaperoned by an accredited guide. It also upped the entry cap which had remained at just 20,000 inbound visitors a day.
Tourism businesses say that the move cannot come soon enough.
In 2021, Japan recorded its lowest number of international visitors to date. Despite being an Olympic year, fewer than 246,000 international travellers were granted entry to the country.
The Tokyo Games were largely without spectators and with restrictions on visiting athletes.
In a reversal of the harsh border restrictions, Reuters reported that the Japanese government was planning to waive tourist visa requirements for some countries.
While it was not known which countries would be considered, Japan granted visa-free entry to 68 countries prior to the Pandemic.
New Zealand was among the first ‘blue’ or low risk countries invited to take place in the guided tourism programme. However, Kiwi travellers were required to apply for a temporary entry visa and be part of an accredited tour.