Japan is allowing limited tourist groups from May as a step for a full reopening

Tourists wear protective face masks after an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, Japan, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Go Min Park/File Photo

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan said on Tuesday it would start conducting “test tourism” in the form of limited tours in May as a way to gather information before the country fully reopens to tourism.

Although tourism has been a mainstay of Japan’s economy, tourists have not been allowed in since it adopted strict border restrictions in 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Regulations have been relaxed slightly to allow students and some business travelers to enter. However, individual tourists remain banned despite calls from industry leaders in hopes of resuming tourism to benefit from the yen, which has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

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The tourism agency said on Tuesday that it will start allowing entry for small group tours from later this month as “test cases” to obtain information for a broader resumption of tourism at an unspecified future date.

It added that the three-time vaccinated tourists who came from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore will be allowed to participate in the tours, which will be meticulously planned in cooperation with travel agencies and accompanied at all times by tour operators. in the current situation.

“This project will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses to infection prevention and to formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to take into account,” she said.

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said earlier this month during a speech in London that he would bring Japan’s border controls in line with other wealthy democracies in June, but no further details were provided, including when the country would fully open its borders to tourists again. . .

Makoto Shimoarisu, the Cabinet Secretariat official for Japan’s response to COVID-19, said the government is aiming for a “gradual relaxation” of border measures that balance infection control and ease of entry into the country.

“We are currently discussing concrete plans for border measures after June, including quarantine measures such as testing and (situation) preparedness,” he added.

In 2019, Japan hosted 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent 4.81 trillion yen.

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(Reporting by Ellen Lies and Rocky Swift in Tokyo; Editing by Christian Schmolinger

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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