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Wary of foreign 'bad manners', Japan cautuously eases borders to aid tourism

streetinsider.com -- May 30
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan's easing of a two-year ban on foreign tourists seeks to balance the enormous economic importance of tourism with concerns that travellers would trigger a COVID outbreak, insiders say.

Under the decision, Japan will allow in a limited number of foreign tourists on package tours starting June 10. Last week a few "test tours", mainly of overseas travel agents, started to arrive.

Relaxing some of the world's strictest pandemic border measures required months of pressure from travel and tourism executives, three insiders told Reuters, describing both the government's fears of public backlash if infections spiked and the industry's concerns of an economic wipeout.

The number of hotels that shut down nationwide rose to the highest in five years last year, and hotel debt levels have more than doubled since 2019, according to researcher Teikoku Databank Ltd.

Local governments remain worried that foreign tourists will bring in the coronavirus, the industry executive said, making it difficult to open the country fully.

Japan, where guidelines such as mask wearing and hand sanitising are scrupulously followed, has avoided the kind of massive infections that have swept through other countries.

Already, the test tours have hit a snag. The Japan Tourism Agency said on Monday that a participant on a trip to the southern prefecture of Oita had tested positive for COVID. The three other travellers are asymptomatic, it said, but the rest of the tour was cancelled. ...continue reading

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