We are all waiting to see when Japan will open it’s borders fully, which will allow individual travellers to enter and explore Japan as we did pre-Covid. At the moment only designated tour companies are permitted to accept international clients into Japan, and in a very restrictive manner. These tours are only being run by larger travel companies like NTT and JTB.
It is our understanding that no snow operator is currently offering these types of tours. We are looking into how Whiteroom could possibly organise some of these trips but at present nothing has been finalised.
However, things are not static in Japan regarding the border. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said on multiple occasions that Japan will continually consider how the Japanese border measures should be adjusted, in relation to the infection rate, the ongoing rollout of vaccine boosters and international border control measures.
Kishida has also indicated that Japan intends to move forward with a focus on normalisation and the economy, again in stages.
So what does it all mean?
THE SHORT VERSION
- Many factors indicate that we may be able to run tours this coming winter – the timing and format is still uncertain though.
- We will be making a call on whether our tours will run in late October/early November, which allows you to transfer your booking to the following season up to 60 days before departure without penalty.
- Our tours are booking up, so if you are interested in joining us now is the time to secure your place – View our Tours
THE LONG VERSION
Japan is hurting economically, and this will worsen the longer Japan remains closed.
Reopening to international tourists will be a much needed boost to the Japanese economy, especially considering the weak yen and reduced consumer spending further impacting the internal tourism sector.
Japan’s ‘Go to Travel’ promotion, a subsidy aimed at encouraging Japanese to travel domestically, has itself not been enough to reinvigorate the tourism and hospitality industries.
International tourists have a much higher per-capita spending rate than domestic tourists, and with the weak yen this would likely increase further. The dramatic fall of the yen in itself is a big reason that many politicians in Japan are calling for the country to reopen. Japan NEEDS international tourism.
Boosting tourism was also a key element of former Prime Minister Abe’s economic strategy, and both subsequent prime ministers have indicated their intentions to continue with those plans.
Japan has also made no alteration to its goal of attracting 60 million foreign visitors by 2030. The Japan National Tourism Organisation has also set 2024 as its goal for recovering to 2019 international travel levels. Together, this position indicates the potential for seeing borders opening in the coming months, rather than years.
Even though Japan is currently in it’s 7th wave of Covid cases, the government has decided not to bring back Covid related restrictions. Case numbers are high and hospitalisations have risen, but nowhere near the levels seen in previous waves, with severe cases numbers at 249 (July 25th 2022, https://mainichi.jp/english/covid19). Severe cases had risen well over 2000 in previous waves.
The Japanese government is now also considering downgrading Covid to category 5, from category 2. This would mean the Japanese populace would be able to see a doctor as usual when Covid positive, and bring an end to isolation measures and government directives to be admitted to designated hospitals.
The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), has also formally requested this downgrade to category 5, as well as the formalisation of an exit strategy and adjustment of border policies to be in line with other G7 countries. If illness severity and fatality rates continue to sit below the levels seen in previous waves, this re-categorisation becomes more likely, and is gathering support from politicians and medical advisors.
As soon as we see severe cases peak during the current wave, we may indeed see the Government move to address how they will take steps to adjust their border policy.
While we don’t envision Japan snapping their fingers and setting all back to normal in one move, we are optimistic that the government will begin to outline and commence it’s exit strategy this year.
As new information is announced we’ll keep you informed of the changes, and in the meantime we are in full preparation mode for the coming winter.