TOKYO: As Japan welcomes tourists this week for the first time in more than two years of epidemic seclusion, hopes for a tourism boom are challenged by shuttered stores and a labour shortfall in the hotel industry.To stop the spread of COVID-19, Japan will abolish some of the harshest border controls in the world starting on Tuesday and resume visa-free travel.
Tourism is expected to stimulate the economy and help offset some of the negative effects of the yen’s decline to a 24-year low, according to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.Arata Sawa is one of many who is looking forward to the resurgence of foreign visitors, who once made up much to 90% of the visitors to his traditional inn.
According to Sawa, the third-generation owner of the Sawanoya ryokan in Tokyo, “I’m expecting and anticipating that a lot of foreigners will come to Japan, exactly like before COVID.”Compared to a record 31.8 million tourists in 2019, little over 500,000 people have visited Japan so far in 2022.
Prior to both being ruined by the coronavirus, the government had set a goal of 40 million by 2020, timed to coincide with the Summer Olympics.The government wants to increase yearly tourist spending to 5 trillion yen ($34.5 billion).
The majority of the 260 stores and eateries at Narita Airport, the largest international airport in Japan and located approximately 70 kilometres from Tokyo, are closed. The airport is still eerily quiet.
Maria Satherley, a 70-year-old New Zealander, described the Terminal 1 departure area as “like half a ghost town.”The northern island of Hokkaido is the home of Satherley’s son. Although she would like to visit this winter with her granddaughter, she probably won’t be able to because the girl is too young to receive the required vaccinations for travel to Japan.