Japan officially reopens, but was it ready to welcome back tourists?

Is Japan ready for tourism?

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People have long been awaiting Japan’s full reopening but it seems their October 11th opening might not have signaled a full return to tourism as we know it.  

Though the island nation has reinstated visa-free travel, the first rounds of tourists to visit recently have returned home (or to social media) with reports of ‘ghost towns’ full of closed shops and hotels struggling with the shortage of hospitality workers.

Even with inbound travel bookings to Japan increasing 3x since the reopening announcement, it seems the country is still playing catch up as a result of its strict and measured approach to Covid. It’s still early, but recent tourist experiences beg the question of whether Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s goal of attracting $34.5 billion in annual tourism spending remains attainable.

If you’re planning on making the trip to Japan, you should note that travelers need to be fully vaccinated, be prepared to mostly use credit cards instead of cash, and expect shorter operating hours at shops, restaurants, and bars. Lastly, even though masks are not technically required, it’s strongly encouraged and widely practiced by Japan’s citizens, meaning that you likely don’t want to be the odd one out in a country that deeply values social etiquette.

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