Earlier this month, Japan began allowing small groups of tourists to try out how the country might cope with reopening later in stages.
It turns out that these small groups of tourists were actually travel industry professionals and not actual tourists. The country plans to welcome more guided groups from June 10, 2022.
Now the program is facing headwinds as one of four Thais on tour in the south of the country has tested positive, and the other three from the same group have been placed in isolation.
Excerpt from Kyodo News:
A trial tour for inbound travelers to Japan has been canceled after one of four participating Thais tested positive for coronavirus, the Japanese tourism agency said.
The traveler was in Oita prefecture in the southwest when his infection was confirmed on Monday. The other three participants were considered close contacts but all tested negative. They are currently in isolation in a hotel, the agency said. The route of infection is unknown.
The tourists arrived at Fukuoka Airport via Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Friday. Their itinerary included Fukuoka’s Tenjin entertainment district as well as an onsen hot spring resort in Oita. The travel agency responsible for the group provides support.
On Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference that the government intended to review the response and reflect it in infection prevention guidelines based on the latest case.
From June 10, Japan will allow tourist arrivals from 98 countries and regions, but will initially limit them to guided tours to reduce the potential spread of infection.
I’m beginning to believe that these organized tours are just signaling to Japan’s partners that the country has reopened to visitors when it hasn’t.
Even visitors to these tour groups must obtain tourist visas, as Japan has temporarily canceled all visa-free travel to the country.
This Thai group visited an onsen (public bath) and an entertainment (drinking) district. How would being in a small group reduce the likelihood of these visitors infecting Japanese or being infected by locals themselves?
I would postpone any travel planning to Japan until these nonsensical requirements have been removed.