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May 20, 2022updated 08 Jun 2022 9:15am

Japan’s novel approach to restarting its tourism industry will hinder recovery

Japan’s government wants travellers from specific countries to take part in tours, which will be strictly planned in conjunction with travel agencies.

By Globaldata Travel and Tourism

Japan is welcoming a limited selection of travellers, namely tourists who have been triple-vaccinated and come from the United States, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore. As the country reopens its borders for the first time in nearly two years, it is worth noting that Japan will start conducting ‘test tourism’ in the form of limited package tours in May ahead of a full reopening to tourism.

It is only the beginning for Japan’s tourism industry recovery

GlobalData’s Tourism Demands and Flows Database shows that in 2019, Japan received 31.88 million international visitors. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this figure fell to just 4.1 million international visitors in 2020 and barely any in 2021, at only 0.21 million international visitors. Finally, after over two years of near-total closure to tourists, the nation has loosened restrictions for students and some business travellers, yet individual tourism is still barred. While this is a step in the right direction, Japan’s tourism industry still has a long journey ahead before recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.

Even with specific tourists being targeted, tourism recovery will take time

Japan’s government wants travellers from specific countries to take part in tours, which will be strictly planned in conjunction with travel agencies and accompanied at all times by tour conductors. This venture will allow the Japanese government to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators. Japanese citizens are feeling a positive effect of these strict measures, and this can be seen through the responses to the GlobalData’s Q4 2021 consumer survey question “How concerned are you about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in general”. 73% of global respondents answered as either “Extremely concerned” or “Quite concerned”. Japanese respondents, however, saw only 51% of responses as either “Extremely concerned” or “Quite concerned”.

There has also been a large-scale vaccine roll-out, with 82.2% of the population having received the first dose, 81% receiving the second dose, and 57.4% receiving a booster dose, according to Our World in Data. With this high level of vaccination, it is evident just how important the prevention of Covid-19 is to the Japanese government, and this desire to limit the spread of infection is yet another facet that will prevent the Japanese tourism industry from recovering in the immediate future.

Strict requirements could further delay Japan’s recovery

Japan has pursued an isolationist policy for over two years. A reopening has been planned for an as of yet unconfirmed date, with ‘test tourism’ in the form of limited package tours in May. With Japan following so far behind its contemporaries, it is unlikely to feel any specific benefits from this test reopening, especially since Japan’s current border entry measures allow 10,000 new arrivals per day, but the quota is made up of citizens, residents, students, and business travellers. As a result of these restrictions, Japan’s tourism industry has a way to go before it fully recovers to pre-pandemic levels. Tourism companies and marketing organisations in Japan now face further challenges, as many other destinations have gained a competitive advantage by opening up their borders earlier and removing most restrictions. Luckily though, Japan has a strong offering, so it does stand a chance of its tourism industry recovering well, albeit slowly.

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