Japan on Wednesday raised its daily entry cap on arrivals from 20,000 to 50,000, as the country’s tourism sector languishes under strict COVID-19 border controls imposed for more than two years.
From the same day, incoming travelers who have been vaccinated at least three times do not need to take coronavirus tests within 72 hours of departure and prove that they are not infected.
People arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on September 7, 2022. (Kyodo)
Japan has apparently fallen behind other major economies in opening its doors to inbound tourism. But foreign tourists are also now allowed to travel without a guide, which could encourage more people to come from abroad.
With the world’s third-largest economy showing few signs of a robust recovery, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government has tried to spur growth by inviting more foreign visitors, who would benefit from the rapid depreciation of the Japanese yen.
The yen fell to the 144 level against the US dollar in Tokyo on Wednesday, hitting a new 24-year low. A weaker yen strengthens the purchasing power of foreign travelers to Japan, with the value of their currencies, such as the dollar and the euro, becoming higher against the Japanese unit.
In November 2021, Japan banned all new entries by foreigners across the world in response to the emergence of the highly contagious variant of Omicron, drawing criticism both at home and abroad for its strict measures. border control.
As vaccination progresses in the country while other countries have resumed international travel, Japan’s controls have recently been eased on entry for businessmen, students, technical trainees and others entering foreign countries. non-tourist purposes.
The daily cap on overseas arrivals, including Japanese nationals, had been raised in stages since March to reach 20,000 in June, although all foreign tourists to Japan were still required to obtain visas and asked to carry face masks during their trip.
In a press conference late last month, Kishida pledged to further relax the country’s border controls taking into consideration the infection situation, travelers’ needs and the border measures being implemented. by other countries.
In 2021, only 245,900 overseas visitors came to Japan, the lowest figure since comparable data became available in 1964, dealing a blow to the country’s travel industry which had been boosted by tourism demand before. the pandemic rages in early 2020.
Japan, meanwhile, is battling its seventh wave of coronavirus infections. August saw a record monthly COVID-19-related deaths of more than 7,000 nationwide, up from 1,300 in July, according to a daily tally by Kyodo News.
The previous peak in virus-related deaths occurred during the sixth wave in February, with 4,900 fatalities.
Despite the wave of new infections, the government in Kishida has not imposed any additional virus restrictions in an effort to support the economy, which has been hit by price hikes resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fall in the yen.
Japan’s economy in the April-June period returned to pre-COVID size, growing 2.2% annualized from the previous quarter. But analysts said the outlook remains bleak as a resurgence in infections and rising costs could lead to lower consumer spending.