From June 2022, Japan will ease restrictions on the entry of tourists into the country, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on May 5.
According to Fuji News Network (FNN), government officials are looking to allow tourists who have undergone three Covid-19 vaccination shots.
They also need to be a part of a package tour with a fixed itinerary. This consideration is for travel agencies and others to better manage the inflow of tourists.
The limit on incoming tourists will also be increased from the current 10,000 to 20,000, Nikkei Asia reported.
This will, however, be monitored, and if the Covid-19 situation remains stable, the programme will be extended to more tourists.
Not all locals welcome tourists back into Japan
However, a segment of the population does not look forward to welcoming back tourists, CNBC reported.
In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Japan welcomed 32 million tourists, resulting in "over-tourism" in some locations.
Dai Miyamoto, the founder of Japanese travel agency, Japan Localised, said that in a city rich with culture such as Kyoto, there were many foreign tourists in the city who were rude to the locals and spoke loudly.
Locals have therefore become appreciative of the "silence" that has returned, he added.
Miyamoto was echoed by Lee Xian Jie, the chief developer of another tour company, Craft Tabby, who highlighted that "a lot of people" were quite upset about over-tourism in Kyoto.
These people have now become appreciative of the present situation, he added, saying, "it feels like how Kyoto was 20 years ago — the good old Kyoto".
The New York Times further cited a poll conducted by Japanese media outlet NHK which said that over 65 per cent of respondents either approved of the current border measures or believed that they should be strengthened.
Japan's tour companies have pivoted to domestic tourism
Miyamoto was also quoted by CNBC as saying that many of Japan's tour agencies have pivoted to domestic tourism, with few Japanese travelling abroad.
These tour agencies now cater to domestic demand for outdoor experiences such as camping and onsen visits.
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, even before the pandemic, domestic tourism consumption in Japan outstripped that of international tourism.
In 2019, domestic tourism consumption totalled 21.9 trillion yen (S$237 billion).
In comparison, consumption by international visitors reached 4.81 trillion yen (S$52 billion) for the same year.
In addition, given that spending by foreign tourists contributes to less than five per cent of Japan's overall gross domestic product, it is not surprising that the government has prioritised other industries, and that borders have remained closed, Shintaro Okuno, the partner and chairman of business consulting firm Bain & Company Japan, was quoted as saying.
CNBC noted that not all Japanese share the sentiments of keeping tourists out, however.
Several profiles interviewed in Tokyo said that the government should relax rules to allow in more foreigners and normalcy to resume.
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