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Japan is open but no one is going, why?   Asia

Started Aug-6 by Feisty Old Broad Shorty (TOILETHEA1); 147 views.

Japan is open to travel. So why aren't tourists coming back?

— Summer 2022 has been dominated by stories about travel mishaps, overcrowding at major destinations and airports and life-threatening heat waves in Europe.
Yet in Asia, where many countries are reopening in a more gradual fashion -- with fewer flight cancellations or horror stories about lost luggage -- tourists have been slow to come back.
That is especially striking in Japan, which reopened to much fanfare in June 2022, just in time for peak travel season. Between June 10 and July 10, the country welcomed about 1,500 leisure tourists, according to data from Japan's Immigration Services Agency. That's down 95% from the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
 
So what's causing the disparity? And why are travelers so slow to return to what has historically been a popular destination?

No safety in numbers

Although Japan is accessible again, the country currently only permits leisure tourists to come in organized groups rather than as individuals. For many in the West, who prefer spontaneity and don't want to follow a strict itinerary, that issue was a dealbreaker.
"We don't need to be babysat," says Melissa Musiker, a New York-based public relations professional who used to travel regularly to Japan.
Musiker and her husband have been to Tokyo "about six times." The pair had been planning to visit again in 2022 when they heard borders were reopening, but were frustrated by the restrictions and gave up.
Instead, they are opting for a new destination and going to South Korea for their vacation.
"We don't want to quarantine. That was a huge factor," Musiker says. "We just like to go and bum around and shop and eat expensive sushi."
A preference for city visits over beach vacations tipped the scales in Seoul's favor, as did her pandemic-born addiction to K-dramas.

Semi-open isn't open

Japan's not-fully-open policy doesn't just apply to visas. The country still has mask rules in many areas, the group tours can be pricey, and Japan requires quarantine upon arrival, which make it a tougher sell.
Katie Tam is the co-founder of Arry, a members-only subscription platform that helps visitors to Japan score reservations at some of Tokyo's most in-demand restaurants, like Obama-endorsed Sukiyabashi Jiro and recent Asia's Best Restaurants list topper Den.
Before the pandemic, many of Arry's users were Asian travelers -- living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea or Singapore -- who visited Japan multiple times a year or could just hop over for a spontaneous long weekend. Since 2020, though, the company has had to go on hiatus.
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