The restrictions have dropped, the gates have lifted and the wait is
finally over: Japan is fully open to international tourists again.
Japan reopened to independent, inbound tourism on 11 October, one of
the last countries to reopen in the Covid era and more than two and a
half years after first closing its borders in March 2020.
Travellers will still need to show proof of three doses of an
approved vaccine to avoid inbound Covid testing. Unvaccinated travellers
are allowed entry but must submit a negative Covid test taken within 72
hours of departure.
Tour operators who specialise in Japan say that demand has surged
since the country announced on 23 September that it would officially
reopen this month.
"There's a lot of people out there quoting, checking out airfare,
things like that," Scott Avera, president of Alexander + Roberts, said
on 6 October. "We've seen a nice spike in that since they announced the
11 October reopening. Our 2023 bookings for Japan are currently at 98%
of our 2019 level, which was a great year in Japan, and 57% of those
bookings in 2023 are new business."
Avera said he anticipates those booking numbers to spike in the next
two weeks following the opening. Other travel industry experts say they
expect not only demand to increase in the coming months but also
Felix Genatio, senior business data analyst at travel tech provider
Dohop, said that searches for flights from the US to Japan grew 84% on
Google in the 14 days following the reopening announcement compared with
the previous two weeks. "In fact, the day after the announcement was
the highest day in terms of search demand, at three times the September
average," he said.
"Nearly three years of closure and the current exchange rate of the
yen, being at its most favorable for Europeans in many years, are
providing an extra impetus for those craving a memorable and authentic
experience in one of the most mind-blowing destinations on the planet,"
said Karolina Simon, head of Japanspecialist, a Europe-based part of
Japan's JTB Group. "We have been overwhelmed by strong demand."
Japan has typically been an expensive holiday for American
travellers, but with the yen at its weakest value in decades, combined
with the dollar's strength, advisors say now is the time to go.
"The yen is at the cheapest exchange rate to the dollar since the
1980s, and this is turning what was once one of the most expensive
holiday destinations possible for Americans into something much more
affordable," said Lorenzo Pilastri, marketing manager at
Japanspecialist. "So, understandably, demand is proving very high, with
people keen to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity
[and] further demand coming from the fact it has been closed for so
The road to reopening
Japan's reopening comes months after it began carefully loosening
restrictions on inbound international travel earlier this year.
The first significant breakthrough came in June when Japan allowed
tourists from eligible countries to visit as part of packaged,
small-group tours escorted by Japanese guides and operated by companies
that had government approval to create and sell tours. Japan had also
raised its daily international arrival limit from 10,000 to 20,000 at
Citing uncertainty around the reopening plan's details and
eligibility, many tour operators chose to hold off on their Japan
restart plans this summer, looking toward the fall and 2023 instead. On 7
September, the country reached another milestone: The daily arrival cap
was raised to 50,000, and small-group tours no longer needed a guide
but still had to make travel arrangements through a tour operator.
In late September, Japan made its long-awaited announcement.
"It's been a long run," Avera said. "Customers are eager to get back,
when we had two years of no one traveling and us moving them around. We
took a few [bookings] yesterday for our group in November, and there is
a lot of excitement over April 2023 for the cherry blossom season."
A trip finally takes off
On a recent tour of Japan with Alexander + Roberts, one of the
company's first tours to return to the country, travellers were just
glad to see their vacations dreams fulfilled.
Mark and Karen Fonder, who live in Appleton, Wis., originally booked
their Japan trip in the spring of 2019 for the following year, which
ended up being postponed due to the pandemic.
"I was here twice in the '90s on business, and so I never got out of
Tokyo," said Mark Fonder while on the 11-day From Japan's Inland Sea to
the Alps itinerary. "I knew I wanted to see a little bit more of the
country, and I'm really glad that this is working out as it's working
out. Especially seeing a bit of the countryside; it's touching."
Source: Travel Weekly