The billion-yen question as to when Japan would reopen to international tourism is now getting some answers.
Later this month, Japan will soon welcome fully vaccinated inbound tourists from Singapore, Thailand, Australia and the US, as part of the country's trial programme to permit small groups ahead of wider easing of Covid-19 measures in June.
Countries open to tourists without Covid restrictions
The Japan Tourism Agency announced in a statement on Tuesday, 17 May that small groups of tourists will be accepted from the four aforementioned countries to test the effectiveness of measures to prevent the spread of Covid.
The trial project will begin with package tours organised by Japanese travel agencies to manage participants' activities, reported Nikkei Asia. Based on the outcome of the project, the Japanese government will develop guidelines for businesses on how to handle people entering the country.
For now, to be allowed in Japan as small groups, inbound tourists from the four countries are expected to meet certain conditions, such as being triple-vaccinated and having medical insurance, and they must be accompanied by travel agency staff on pre-set itineraries.
The announcement is met with elation from outbound travel agencies in these countries.
Among them is Ong Hanjie, director of EU Holidays in Singapore, who expressed "excitement" and "confidence" in the latest reopening announcement from Japan. The company has been involved in discussions with the various government representatives and prefectures from Japan ahead of the latter's reopening.
"Once Japan is open, the country will definitely catch a lot of interest for Japan lovers. We have many fans of Japan among our clients, and they are already asking us for further information," says Ong.