Japan's 'test tourism' leaves beleaguered travel industry cold

Tour operators say trial allowing handful of visitors from selected countries falls far short of what sector needs.

Al Jazeera -- May 24
Tokyo, Japan – Hiroshi Kawaguchi, the operator of a tour company in Kyoto, felt a wave of relief at the news that Japan would welcome the return of foreign tourists after more than two years of closed borders.

But as Kawaguchi read the fine print, his enthusiasm soon waned.

Under the Japan Tourism Agency’s “test tourism” trial announced earlier this month, just 50 visitors from four countries – Australia, Thailand, the United States and Singapore – will be allowed to take part in tours organised by selected travel agencies.

The tour groups will also be restricted to tripled-vaccinated visitors, capped at four people and accompanied by a guide at all times.

The trial run, which follows a pledge by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to ease border restrictions from June, will be used to gather information and hone infection control measures for a broader resumption of tourism at an unspecified later date.

“To control the movement of travellers, I can understand the approach,” Kawaguchi, who runs the sustainability-focused tour operator Oku Japan, told Al Jazeera. “However, it is a very restricted way of accepting leisure travellers. The ways of travel are diverse, and segregating travellers and focusing on only ‘fixed itineraries’ with a tour leader is rather odd.” ...continue reading

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