Japan announced Thursday that it will lift tough Covid restrictions on foreign tourists, reopening the borders after two and a half years.
Speaking at the New York Stock Exchange, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the pandemic had interrupted the free flow of people, goods and capital that had helped the nation flourish.
Japan, along with China, has been a holdout in continuing tough restrictions on visitors as much of the world has moved on from the pandemic.
Tourists who come to Japan will enjoy a weak yen, which has plummeted so low against the dollar that the finance ministry intervened in the currency market Thursday for the first time since 1998.
Since June, Japan has allowed tourists to visit in groups accompanied by guides, a requirement that was further relaxed to include self-guided package tours.
Kishida “took office a year ago knowing that perceived mishandling of the pandemic had been a key factor in undermining public confidence” in his predecessor’s government, Brady told AFP.
Japan has recorded around 42,600 coronavirus deaths in total — a vastly lower rate than many other countries — and 90 percent of residents aged 65 and over have had three vaccine shots.
While the return of mass tourism should give a “slight bump” to Japan’s economy, the benefits are likely to be limited by China’s zero-Covid policy, Brady said.
But “currently, Chinese citizens face their own travel restrictions at home and won’t be traveling to Japan in large numbers.”
“Searches for travel to Japan reached their highest point this year at the end of August,” and while flight bookings were just 16 percent of 2019 levels in early September, “we’d expect bookings to jump” when the visa rules are scrapped, Ponti said.