ALTHOUGH there had been many hints dropped along the way, this week’s announcement by Japanese PM Fumio Kishida that his country will throw open its borders to unrestricted tourism did little to suppress any of the ensuing elation in the Aussie travel sector.
From 11 October, independent tourists will once again be allowed to visit the Land of the Rising Sun without the need to travel in small group tours or book flights and accommodation through a travel agent, with caps on visitors and special visa requirements all to be abolished in only a few weeks time.
Before the pandemic, Japan was one of the fastest-growing destinations for international visitors, receiving almost 32 million arrivals in 2019, including over half-a-million (621,800) Australians, which at the time represented a rise of 12.6% on 2018 numbers.
This significant growth trend explains some of the reason why the Australian outbound sector was itching so vigorously for the news of border normalisation, not least because Japan had also been one of the last countries to keep its walls up in its fight to control the health damage of COVID-19 among its population.
In 2019, Japan became the seventh most popular international destination for Australians following more than 10 years of sharp visitor growth, and with pent-up demand remaining strong in Australia and a weaker Yen meaning Aussies will get more bang for their holiday buck, the likelihood of a travel surge to Japan 0ver the next six months appears a very safe bet – especially with the popular northern winter ski season approaching.
For JNTO Sydney Executive Director Yoko Tanaka, the country is likely to see a strong take-up of bookings from Aussies simply because much of its appeal can’t be replicated by neighbouring Asian markets.
“Ultimately, Japan’s strength and appeal as a travel destination lies in our difference, we can offer experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world,” Tanaka said.
“Where else can you soak in a natural hot-spring with a view of Mt Fuji, adding the news would be also be warmly welcomed by travellers planning snowsports trips over the winter, or those booking ahead for the popular cherry blossom season next year.
Unvaccinated travellers will still need to provide proof of a negative test before departure.