Tokyo (CNN) — The Japan Tourism Agency announced on Tuesday (May 17) that it would start allowing small-group tours in May as part of a “test tourism” trial before the country fully reopens to foreign visitors.
The country’s tourism agency added that the trial will allow the government to assess health and safety protocols and how to deal with Covid-19 infections among trial participants, according to a statement released on Tuesday. by the country’s tourist agency.
“This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and to formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind,” the statement said.
The trial – which was delayed from late 2021 due to increased border control measures against the Omicron variant – will be open to triply vaccinated tourists from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States. The Japan Tourism Agency will schedule tours with travel agencies, and incoming tour guides will accompany tour groups at all times. Tourists in tour groups will have fixed travel routes.
The government spokesman – who declined to be named as is usual practice in Japan – added that the government was considering allowing 50 tourists for trial package tours, but said that number was not yet decided.
Participating tourists must also have private health insurance.
There will be no changes to the current testing requirements to enter the country. Visitors will be required to submit a negative Covid test taken 72 hours prior to departure and test again upon arrival.
Currently, only 10,000 people a day are allowed to enter Japan, but the government plans to increase that number to 20,000 in June, according to a report by state broadcaster NHK.
The latest move comes as Japan faces growing pressure from domestic businesses and the international community to reopen the border.
Earlier in May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan would reopen to tourism this year, in line with other G7 countries, but did not provide a timetable for the full opening of borders.
Japan’s current border entry measures allow 10,000 new arrivals per day, but do not include leisure tourists. At the moment, citizens, residents, researchers, students, family members of residents and business travelers with prior authorization can enter. Some are quarantined depending on where they come from.
A record 31.9 million foreign visitors came to Japan in 2019 and the country is expected to reach its goal of welcoming 40 million tourists in 2020 before the pandemic hits, according to 2022 data released by the National Organization. tourism in Japan.