Japan Reduces Travel Restrictions

The Japanese government is gradually reducing the travel restrictions which were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic which were set up as way of protecting the aging population from the virus. The travel restrictions also included access to international sports fans to the Olympic Games held in 2021 where entry was refused to limit Covid transmission.

This is at a time that has seen the yen fall in value due to the war in Ukraine causing a stagnant economy and weak trading environment. The Bank of Japan had refused to increase interest rates, unlike many of the other major industrial nations, and is hoping that a weak yen will help attract millions of business and tourist visitors to Japan. 

It has been announced that Japan will permit all travellers with at least three COVID-19 vaccine injections or a negative test result to enter the country without the need for a visa.

During the last full year before the pandemic in 2019, Japan received almost 32 million foreign visitors from more than 60 countries, including the US, Europe, Africa, and Asia to enter the country without a visa if they were visiting for a short time.

There has been a gradual restriction in the travel restrictions to Japan in 2022. Initially the daily cap on foreign visitors was set at 3,500 a day and since June a cap of 20,000 daily visitors were allowed into the country. On 7th September the cap was increased to 50,000 visitors and now it has been announced that Japan would resume unlimited numbers of visa-free entry for individual travellers on Oct. 11. 

During the initial lifting of the entry restrictions that were limitations on the visitors arriving in Japan such as they had to be part packaged tour group obtaining clearance via a Japanese travel agent, with fees or commissions to be paid.  But now the there is hope that Japan will approach pre-pandemic visitor levels for the first time since 2019, even though visitors still must be vaccinated to enter the country.

Tourists who visit Japan will benefit from a weak yen, which has fallen so low against the USD that the finance ministry had to intervene in the currency market on 22nd September for the first time since 1998 to prop up the value of the yen.

Japan’s announcement on the lifting of restrictions comes in around the same time that Taiwan and Hong Kong also relaxed entry rules for travellers.

Weakness of Japanese will be a big benefit to Travellers

The world’s third-largest economy was stagnating before the pandemic and has still not fully recovered but there is pent-up demand for travel to Japan. The weak yen makes Japan a more affordable travel destination and there is hope that the influx of tourists and business travellers will provide a much needed boost to the economy.

Internet searches for travel to Japan reached their highest point this year at the end of August and while flight bookings were only 16% of 2019 levels in early September bookings are now expected to increase when the restrictions on visas and travel numbers are ended.

The return of mass tourism will benefit the Japanese economy but the effect is likely to be limited by China’s zero-Covid policy as pre-Covid there were high numbers of Chinese visitors spending a lot of money on technical products and cosmetics. There is also the cost of living crisis, especially in Europe, and the increase in airfares which may subdue the demand for travel. 

Limited Covid-19 Restrictions in Japan

The Covid death rate in Japan is the lowest among the world’s richest nations, with about 42,000 deaths caused by the virus so far, while the vaccination rate is among the highest with 90% of residents older than 65 years of age having received more than three vaccinations.

Japan also never introduced lockdowns and has lifted rules on mask wearing but many Japanese people still choose to wear protective equipment in public places.