Japan allows foreign visitors of small tour groups on a trial basis

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TOKYO >> The Japanese government announced today that it will start allowing small package tours from four countries later this month before gradually opening up to foreign tourism for the first time since imposing strict border restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said visits will be allowed from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States on a trial basis.

Participants must be triple vaccinated and tours must have fixed guides and routes, the Japan Tourism Agency said. Each tour can have a maximum of four people, and a total of 50 participants are expected to join the experience, the government agency said.

Participants will enter Japan on a special visa, not a tourist visa, the agency said. The results will be used to compile coronavirus guidelines for tour operators, hotels and other related businesses, he said.

The experiment should begin next week and continue until the end of May. Other details, including the duration and destination of the visits, are yet to be decided, the agency said.

Japan’s tourism industry, hit hard by tight border controls, is eager for overseas tourism to resume. COVID-19 infections have slowed in Japan since the beginning of this year, and the government is gradually expanding social and economic activity.

After facing criticism that its strict border controls were xenophobic, Japan began easing restrictions earlier this year and currently allows the entry of up to 10,000 people from abroad daily, including including Japanese nationals, foreign students and some business travelers. The government is reportedly considering doubling the daily cap to 20,000 in the coming weeks. Currently, foreign tourists are not allowed to enter.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech during a visit to London earlier this month that he planned to ease border controls as early as June in line with the policies of other industrialized countries in the Group of Seven, but did not gave no further details.

Foreign tourist arrivals fell more than 90% in 2020, from a record 31.9 million the previous year, nearly wiping out the pre-pandemic inbound tourism market of more than 4 trillion yen (31 billion yen). dollars).

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