Japan's reopening poised to deliver vital GDP boost

TOKYO, Sep 25 (Nikkei) - Japan's decision to loosen border controls is expected to buoy an economy facing headwinds, as inbound tourism recovers with the aid of a weak yen.

Starting Oct. 11, Japan will open its doors to individual tourists and resume visa-free entry for short-term travelers, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday in New York. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 90% of visitors to Japan came for tourism -- and of these, independent travelers accounted for 80%.

Japan welcomed 169,800 visitors this August in data released Wednesday by the Japan National Tourism Organization, down 93% from the same month in 2019. The U.S. and Europe eased entry restrictions earlier, with the recovery in tourism demand spreading globally.

There were nearly 250 million international tourist arrivals worldwide in the first five months of 2022, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization -- roughly tripling from a year earlier. Arrivals recovered to nearly half of pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

International tourist arrivals in Europe could reach 65% to 80% of 2019 levels in 2022, according to the UNWTO forecast. In the Americas, the figure could reach 63% to 76%.

Thanks to the looser restrictions, Japan could draw approximately 15.3 million international travelers in 2023, or 48% of 2019, according to an estimate by Rino Onodera, an economist at the Mizuho Research Institute. This change is expected to lift gross domestic product by 0.74% in 2023 from annualized GDP for the April-June quarter, before the easing. ...continue reading

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