The tours will be used as ‘test cases’ for the gathering of information on how to manage the full reopening of Japan’s borders to leisure travel in the future.
The JTA says that the trials will allow them to ‘verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention’ and to ‘formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators’.
To book a place on one of the tours, tourists must be triple-vaccinated and come from either Australia, Singapore, Thailand or the US. The tours will be strictly planned in conjunction with travel agencies, and tourists must be accompanied by tour conductors at all times.
At an event in London earlier in May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed that he would bring Japan’s border controls into line with those of other wealthy democracies in June, but did not provide any further details.
‘More needs to be done’ to ease Covid restrictions
It follows the relaxation of Covid border restrictions on 1 March, which enabled foreign residents, students and business travellers to visit the country again after two years, albeit with a 10,000-person cap on overseas arrivals. Plans are currently underway to raise the cap to 20,000 in the near future.
Despite the gradual easing of Covid restrictions, Japan lags behind much of the developed world, in which many countries have now removed all restrictions.
At the Changi Aviation Summit in Singapore this month, Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) noted that Japanese Covid travel restrictions remained a drag on the recovery of air travel in the Asia-Pacific region.
Walsh said that ‘while Japan has taken steps to allow travel … more needs to be done to further ease travel restrictions, starting with lifting quarantine for all vaccinated travellers, and removing both the on-arrival airport testing and daily arrival cap.’