Experts don’t know when Japan will see a recovery in the tourism industry

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With almost all conditions for the arrival of foreign tourists lifted on October 11, players in the tourism industry are hoping for a long-awaited recovery.

However, while there are encouraging signs regarding incoming tourists over the next few months, it is also expected that the numbers will not be increase considerably until next year.

“The expected figures for this year are unlikely to be reached as airline fares have increased,” said an official from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JTNO).

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he wants foreign tourists to take advantage of the weak yen to spend more when visiting Japan.

An aide to Kishida also said that even if the same amount of money was spent this year, the weaker yen means the amount of Japanese currency received would be higher.

The lifting of the visa requirement for foreign tourists has made their visit much easier.

Airlines have seen a surge in bookings since September 22, when the government announced it would ease arrival conditions for foreign passengers.

All Nippon Airways said bookings for overseas departures between December and January had increased fivefold from mid-September. Bookings for flights from Japan have doubled.

Japan Airlines said bookings for overseas departures after November had tripled.

Still, there are doubts whether the number of foreign tourists before the novel coronavirus pandemic can be reached.

Visitors to Mount Arakurayama Sengen Park in Fuji-Yoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture admire both Mount Fuji and a five-story pagoda. (Go Takahashi)

China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong accounted for around 70% of all foreign arrivals in 2019.

While South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong have also relaxed their own conditions for arriving passengers, China – which accounted for the largest number of foreign tourists before 2020 – still requires the return of self-quarantined nationals. .

Thus, there will probably not be a big increase in the number of visitors from China anytime soon.

The Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. estimated that the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis meant that for 2022 the number of foreign tourists would be reduced by 43.5 million.

The amount they would have spent in Japan would also be reduced by 5.7 trillion yen ($39 billion). The institute expects only about half the levels of foreign visitors seen in 2019, when about 32 million arrived in Japan.

A litmus test would be whether there are more passengers on flights to regional airports since tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan prefer to visit areas outside of major metropolitan areas, the head of the JNTO said.

October 11 also marked the start of a nationwide travel subsidy program.

Again, however, there is a sign that domestic travel may not rise sharply.

JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co. released the results of a survey in August which found that people aged 60 and over are comparatively more hesitant to travel due to concerns about new coronavirus infections.

(This article was written by Go Takahashi and Shinya Matsumoto.)

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