TOKYO — Japan will open its borders to foreign tourists in June for the first time since imposing strict pandemic travel restrictions about two years ago, but for now only for package tours, the prime minister said Thursday.
From June 10, Japan will allow people to enter the country on tours with fixed schedules and guided tours, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.
Tourists from areas with low rates of coronavirus infection who have received three doses of vaccine will be exempted from testing and quarantine upon entry.
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Japan is hosting small experimental package tours this week from four countries, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States. This experiment, which involves only 50 people who have received special visas and not tourist visas, is scheduled to end on May 31.
After being criticized for its strict border controls being xenophobic, Japan began easing its restrictions earlier this year and currently allows entry of up to 10,000 people a day, including Japanese citizens, foreign students and some business travelers.
Japan will double the cap to 20,000 per day from June 1, including package tour participants, said Makoto Shimoaraiso, a cabinet official in charge of pandemic response.
The scope of the package tours and other details will be determined after officials evaluate the results of the current experimental tours, he said.
It will take some time before foreign visitors can come to Japan for individual tourism, Shimoaraiso said.
Japan’s tourism industry, hit hard by border controls, is excited for overseas tourism to resume. Coronavirus infections have slowed in Japan since earlier this year, and the government is gradually expanding social and economic activities.
Visiting London this month, Kishida said he plans to ease border controls as early as June, in line with policies in other developed countries in the Group of Seven, but gave no further details.
Foreign tourist arrivals fell more than 90 percent in 2020, compared with a record 31.9 million a year earlier, nearly erasing the more than 4 trillion yen ($31 billion) tourism market that arrived before the pandemic ) out.