The Japanese government has announced plans to conduct “test tourism” initiatives in May before the supposed full re-opening of the country’s tourism sector following the significant blow of the pandemic to the country’s economy.
Announced Tuesday, officials plan to open limited package tours to gather information from visitors before allowing thousands across immigration lines. The initiative is also done to develop countermeasures against potential threats if the borders open to thousands of tourists.
Japan is a country that thrives on its tourism industry. In 2019, the country received more than 30 million tourists and earned $49 billion in receipts. However, when the government imposed the lockdown restrictions in 2020, the number of tourists dwindled, and revenue dropped to $11 billion.
Japan is making a major effort to revitalize its tourism industry. Plans are underway that will ease regulations and allow people, including business owners and students, to enter the country as part of the experiment’s small groups. However, despite the calls of many groups and sectors to open the borders of Japan, individual travelers are still not allowed to enter as long as there is no order for the re-opening of the Japanese borders.
While the exact dates haven’t been set yet, authorities from the Tourism Agency say they plan on starting small group tours in May. These “test cases” will allow them to assess how many tourists can come and ensure their safety within the country’s borders.
However, the test tours are not open to all. The qualified people for the tours are triple vaccinated individuals from Thailand, Singapore, Australia, and the United States. During the tours, the Japanese government is looking to work with travel agencies and hospitality companies to ensure safety and a smooth process.
The Travel Agency said they will be running the experiment to test “compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention.” In addition, the program would help them craft guidelines on how best practices should work and establish proper protocols in the conduct of tourists visiting the country.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that the government would be easing border controls in phases, with an ultimate goal of opening the country’s borders to everyone, at least as much as other “wealthy democratic” nations around the world.
However, there is no date yet specified for when this planned restoration might happen–the process may depend on certain COVID variants being detected in new reports by the World Health Organization.
The government is crafting “concrete plans for border measures after June, including quarantine measures such as testing and standby,” said Makoto Shimoaraiso, the Cabinet Secretariat official of Japan’s COVID-19 response.
Authorities remind travelers and the citizens of Japan to be on the lookout for the announcement. In restarting an economy, the safety of the citizens and the whole country is paramount.