TOKYO: Japan's government is planning to waive tourist visa requirements from some countries as part of a further easing of border controls enacted to stop the spread of COVID-19, Fuji News Network reported on Monday (Sep 12).
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may decide as early as this week on the easing, which would also allow individual travellers to visit Japan without travel agency bookings, FNN reported. Japan did not require tourist visas for 68 countries and regions before the pandemic.
The government may scrap a daily cap on arrivals by October, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday.
Deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiji Kihara said on a television programme on Sunday that "a weak yen is most effective in attracting inbound tourism", adding that further steps must be taken to draw in foreign visitors.
Japan last week raised the daily ceiling of inbound travellers to 50,000 from 20,000 and eliminated a requirement for pre-departure COVID-19 tests, easing what have been among the most restrictive border measures among major economies.
ASIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY SEEING SIGNS OF RECOVERY
Speaking to CNA's Asia First, director at Check-in Asia Gary Bowerman said aviation in the region is starting to see some positive signs of recovery with Japan probably about to fully reopen, Australia already open, and New Zealand recently having joined the list.
"Our region is starting to get back to some sort of normality in terms of the rules and restrictions around travel. We've now got to see whether the consumer demand will be there to really lift the recovery for the industry," said Mr Bowerman, who is Asia travel and tourism analyst at the tourism intelligence and strategic marketing firm.
However, the region is still a "long way away" from returning to the situation before the pandemic, he said.
"We're starting to see some patterns of travel coming back but it's still very, very early days," he said. He noted that passenger movements this year from January to July in Singapore - which is leading the region in aviation recovery - are 20 per cent of the total passenger movements in 2019.
Bowerman said that flight prices are not likely to fall yet, with airlines having to reclaim some of the money they lost during the pandemic. Another factor is the jet fuel price that increased after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
While fuel prices have been "very volatile" over the past few months, they are starting to trend downwards for now, he said.
"It could go back up again towards the end of the year, particularly if countries like Japan and China reopen, there'll be more demand for jet fuel," he said.