Japan has begun admitting overseas business travellers, providing a much-needed boost to the country’s business travel market.
Prime minister Fumio Kishida said the move, which came into effect on March 1, is part of the country’s “exit of the sixth wave” of coronavirus.
The opening up follows pressure from business leaders and universities to remove the entry ban, which was first implemented on November 30, 2021, in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, mere weeks after Japan had eased border controls.
Under the new rules, quarantine in government facilities can be as few as three days, depending on the visitor’s vaccination status and country of departure. The daily cap on the number of people who can enter Japan has also been increased to 5,000, up from 3,500.
Japan’s business travel sector welcomed the easing of measures, but remain certain of the immediate impact.
Hwang Cheng Meng, vice president global market management Asia-Pacific, CWT, stated: “There is a lot of pent-up demand, particularly among employees of Japanese companies who are based overseas and want to travel to Japan to meet their colleagues.”
He pointed out that the need to meet face-to-face is especially high among staff of Japanese firms that have bought or merged with other companies since the start of the pandemic.
However, Hwang noted that “testing and quarantine requirements remain among the biggest barriers to resuming travel”. This is evident from countries such as UK and India which have eliminated testing and quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers, bringing about “a significant increase in bookings and enquiries for both inbound and outbound travel”, he elaborated.
Miki Ogikubo, the spokesperson of Toyoko Inn, which has 269 business hotels across Japan, said they are stepping up their overseas promotion in light of the news, such as advertising on travel and accommodation booking websites.
Pre-pandemic, the Tokyo-based hotel chain saw an increase in guests from abroad, with a high of 15 per cent annually, but the majority of their business still comes from the large domestic business market.