International tourism to Japan is set to officially resume next month, with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirming guests travelling on package tours will be allowed to enter the country from June 10.
No doubt music to the ears of passionate Japan fans, the news follows a successful trial of group tours, which saw 50 travellers from Australia, the United States, Singapore and Thailand allowed to reenter the country earlier this month.
In addition to reopening borders to group tours, and marking an end to the ban introduced more than two years ago, the Japanese government is also set to double its current daily entry cap from 10,000 to 20,000 people from June 1.
“We will resume accepting tourists on package tours with guides from the 10th of next month,” confirms Prime Minister Kishida. “Step by step we will aim to accept [tourists] as we did in normal times, taking into consideration the status of infections.”
Japan currently permits visitors from 106 countries, although limited to strict international arrival caps and those visiting for purposes other than tourism, such as business and study.
The return of group tours is expected to pave the way for a further easing of restrictions.
Prior to the pandemic, inbound travel was a bright spot for Japan’s economy as the number of foreign visitors expanded five-fold between 2011 and 2019. In the decade before the pandemic, tourism was an enormous success story as the number of foreign visitors ballooned five-fold.
By 2019, tourism contributed US$359 billion to Japan's GDP, making it the world's third-largest tourism market after the United States and China.
But, largely due to its strict pandemic border measures, the number of foreign visitors plummeted from nearly 32 million in 2019 to just 250,000 last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
With group tourism now on the cards, it won’t be long until it reclaims that market once again.
While Qantas has pushed back the restart of flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Tokyo to September-October, there’s a good chance the airline may bring those flights forward should the chance arise.
All three routes will rely on Qantas' Airbus A330s, which feature 28 lie-flat Business Suites and 269 economy class seats, although there’s no premium economy on these regional workhorses.
Oneworld member Japan Airlines (JAL) and Virgin Australia partner ANA also fly between Sydney and Tokyo, while JAL also offered a Melbourne-Tokyo service before the pandemic.