Low-COVID countries prioritized . . .
On Thursday, Japan announced that it will reopen its borders on June 10 to package group tours from 98 ‘blue’ countries, including Canada, deemed to have a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission. The change, which comes after a more than two-year ban on foreign tourists, will include updates to vaccination, testing, and quarantine requirements. For example, visitors from ‘blue’ countries will no longer require PCR tests or quarantine upon arrival. For the 99 ‘yellow’ and four ‘red’ countries deemed to have higher COVID-related risks, Japan will still require a mix of PCR tests and quarantine at a designated facility or domestic home.
Recovering from a tourism crash . . .
Japan has had the strictest border measures of all G7 countries throughout the pandemic, and the long-awaited gradual opening is being well-received by the country’s struggling tourism sector. Before the pandemic, Japan was a tourism powerhouse and well on its way to meeting its goal of welcoming 40 million tourists by the Tokyo Summer Olympics, initially scheduled for 2020. But last year, only 246,000 tourists visited the country, a far cry from the 31.9 million visitors that earned Japan about C$58 billion in tourism revenue in 2019.
Japan leads the pack . . .
According to the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021 report released last Tuesday, which measures “key factors in enabling the sustainable and resilient growth of travel and tourism economies,” Japan ranked first out of 117 countries – the first time Japan has topped the chart in the report’s 15-year history. Japan ranked high in safety and security, health and hygiene, ICT, infrastructure, and cultural resources, but low in international openness and price competitiveness. The next highest-ranking Asia Pacific countries were Australia (7th), Singapore (9th), and China (12th). Despite Japan’s high ranking, questions remain about its ability to meet its lofty goal of attracting 60 million foreign visitors by 2030. Regardless, it will be a bumpy recovery for the sector, and many local governments fear that increasing foreign visitors will bring new COVID outbreaks, while many residents do not want to see a return to pre-pandemic tourist crowding.