NEW YORK (AP) – Japan’s strict border restrictions will be eased next month, the prime minister announced on Thursday, giving tourists easy access for the first time since the pandemic began.
Speaking at a press conference at the foot of New York’s Central Park, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that from October 11, independent tourists would be welcome again, not just those traveling with authorized groups.
A limit on the number of tourists allowed entry – which has been gradually increased this year – will be lifted altogether. And the visa requirements imposed as a result of the pandemic will also be dropped.
Japan’s strict COVID-19 restrictions have caused visitor numbers to plummet and the tourism industry to rampage. Although foreign tourists were welcomed in June after a break of more than two years, the reopening was confusing for many who wanted to visit.
An earlier announcement billed as easing the group travel rule turned out to be anything but a complicated process for many tourists, requiring permission to be obtained through a Japanese travel agency, often with high fees or commissions.
Now the country seems to be returning to normal, in time for some to book trips for Japan’s fall foliage. Kishida said a campaign aimed at strengthening the tourism industry would be rolled out with discounts.
“We hope many citizens will benefit from this,” he said as he completed a trip to New York.
Until now, Japan has stuck to pandemic travel rules that many other countries have long dropped. Some tourists have moved their vacations to countries like South Korea and Thailand, where looser rules have recently been in place.
Kishida spoke on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. In other remarks, he called for reform of the UN Security Council and dismissed any skepticism about Japan’s increased military spending, saying it remained a “peace-loving nation”.
He also said Japan would “boldly take the necessary steps” to counter excessive fluctuations in the yen, which has fallen to its lowest level against the US dollar in more than two decades.
AP National Writer Matt Sedensky can be reached at [email protected] and https://twitter.com/sedensky. For more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly