Japan will begin limited “test tourism” in May as a first step toward complete reopening

Japan announced in May that it would begin conducting “test tourism” in the form of limited package tours to gather information before reopening the country to tourists fully.

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Though tourism was formerly an important source of revenue for Japan, travelers have been barred from entering since the country implemented rigorous border restrictions in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began.

japanese night
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The rules have been slightly relaxed to let students and some business travelers into the country. Individual tourists, on the other hand, are still forbidden, despite demands from business executives to revive tourism to take advantage of the yen’s 20-year lows.

The Tourism Agency announced that small group tours will be allowed to enter starting later this month as “test cases” in order to gather information in preparation for a wider restoration of tourism at an undefined future date.

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Tourists from the United States, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore who have been triple-vaccinated will be allowed to participate in the trips, which will be meticulously prepared in coordination with travel companies and accompanied at all times by tour conductors, according to the statement.

“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,” it said.

A ryokan - type of traditional Japanese inn
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In a speech earlier this month in London, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that Japan’s border controls would be brought in line with those of other wealthy democracies in June, but no further details have been provided, including when the country’s borders will be fully open to tourists again. In 2019, 31.9 million international visitors spent 4.81 trillion yen in Japan.

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