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As borders reopen, is Japan ready for tourism's pitfalls?

From crowding to reliance on China, current approach is unsustainable long-term

Nikkei -- May 30
TOKYO -- After closing its doors to most foreign travelers throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese government has announced plans to start allowing group tours to enter Japan next month, much to the relief of hotels and other businesses that rely on tourism.

But the reopening is also expected to bring a trio of problems: local pushback against excessive tourism, extra strain without accompanying profits due to a weak yen, and the security risk that comes from depending too heavily on China.

Many countries around the world have been welcoming tourists again as they look toward the post-pandemic future. Hawaii is already attracting throngs of visitors from the rest of the U.S. and overseas. Several flights to the islands from Japan were completely booked during the Golden Week holidays in early May.

The number of Japanese tourists in Hawaii is expected to remain at about 10% of pre-pandemic levels in May and June, according to local reports. Travel reservations indicate that the figure could rise to 20% this summer and 50% by the fall. A flood of Japanese vacationers could head to Hawaii for the New Year, depending on what restrictions remain in place.

Japanese tourist destinations are also itching for inbound visitors. A quick reopening will be crucial in preventing Japan from losing out to other countries, and taking advantage of the current weak yen.

But a blind push to recreate the pre-pandemic tourism boom will only steer Japan into trouble.

A relatively immediate issue is congestion. Heavy tourist traffic used to disrupt local bus and train service in popular destinations like Kyoto and Kamakura -- a result of more travelers looking to experience a place as the locals do, instead of touring famous landmarks in large groups. ...continue reading

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