Japan to test tourism with reopening for 50 foreign travelers

Japan is preparing to welcome a small number of tourists back to the country after shutting its borders during the pandemic — but don’t count on being one of them.

In a test to prepare for a larger resumption of travel, the country is planning to allow about 50 vaccinated-and-boosted travelers to visit as part of organized tours later this month, the Japan Tourism Agency said Tuesday. The pool of 50 travelers will be allowed from four countries Japan has designated as priority markets: the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

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Japan Still Closed to Most Travelers, Despite Asia Reopening

In a recent essay, novelist and Kyoto native Keiichiro Kashiwagi wrote that his fellow Kyotoites had longed bemoaned the “clamor” of tourism that drowned out the city’s tranquility, and that the “irony of the great calamity that has been the corona pandemic is that it has restored the city’s lost beauty.”

When the country reopens, it will need to rethink how the country has promoted itself to visitors, including taking steps to “prevent overtourism,” Tetsuo Saito, the transportation minister, told Japan’s parliament in March.

Businesses anxious for the return of tourists have been helped out by large government subsidies and also a boost in domestic tourism that has come as Japanese travelers have become more reluctant to risk the complications, and possible health implications, of taking vacations abroad.

While Japanese officials would like to allow more tourists in as quickly as possible, they are remaining cautious until they see how the domestic situation develops, said Toshifumi Kojima, a ruling party lawmaker.

The country just emerged from a national emergency that was declared as the Omicron variant pushed case numbers to record highs. But numbers have been ticking up again in the Tokyo area as locals get out to enjoy the cherry blossoms. The seven day average as of Thursday was around 42,000, up from about 20,000 a week before.

Since it’s not clear how a sudden influx of tourists would affect the situation, “for the time being, we’re welcoming domestic tourists, Japanese tourists, as a warm up, and we’re thinking about how to increase inbound tourists from abroad,” Mr. Kojima said.

In recent months countries across Southeast Asia have been busy loosening restraints on international tourism, arguing that their relatively high vaccination rates and their determination to live safely with the virus and resuscitate their moribund tourism sectors warranted a broad resumption of unfettered travel.

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Travel news – live: British Airways returns to Gatwick following South Terminal reopening

British Airways is making a return to Gatwick Airport today, following a nearly two year pause on flights from the East Sussex hub.

The first BA flight from the East Sussex airport departed at 6.25 AM, headed for Larnaca, Cyprus – just two days after Gatwick’s South Terminal reopened to passengers.

The terminal, which contains the airline’s First and Club lounges, reopened on Sunday after nearly two years unused.

Today’s flights are the first offerings from BA’s new Gatwick-specific, short-haul operation, which will eventually become a subsidiary of the brand, “EuroFlyer” – similar to its “CityFlyer” programme from London City Airport.

“Initially services will operate under the British Airways Air Operators Certificate (AOC), before moving operations to a new British Airways branded subsidiary, BA Euroflyer later in the year,” says a statement from the carrier.

“The new airline will operate in a similar manner to the company’s existing subsidiary BA Cityflyer, flying under the British Airways brand and delivering a premium British Airways product.”

Read on for the latest news and developments.


Gatwick’s South Terminal, two days in

Hello from Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal, where a steady but comfortable trickle of passengers is flowing through check-in and security this morning.

I’m here to get a look at British Airways’ first flights out of the airport in nearly two years, as well as experience this Sleeping Beauty for the first time since 2020.

I’ve flown out of North Terminal a handful of times since Covid shut down its sibling terminal, and it feels incredibly strange to turn left into the South Terminal entrance from the train station, rather than making the usual hard right for the shuttle to the former.

A few shops are still shuttered, but the departure hall Wetherspoons is predictably buzzing, as is the Caffe Nero just before security,

I’ll be checking out BA’s new short-haul Gatwick experience a little later, on its first flight to Tenerife, so stay tuned for a sneak preview.

(Lucy Thackray)

Shoppers at South Terminal, Gatwick

(Lucy Thackray)

Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 11:32


Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be posting all the latest news and updates.

Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 11:21

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Manchester airport starts phased reopening of Terminal Three

Manchester airport has started a phased reopening of its Terminal Three after being closed for two years due to the pandemic.

The “gradual” reopening of the terminal at the UK airport started on Sunday (27 March) and sees Terminal Three initially being used for arriving passengers with several airlines, including British Airways, Eastern Airways, Iberia Express, Loganair, Ryanair and Vueling.

Manchester is also planning to begin using both runways again from 5 April as the airport expects to cater for rising passenger numbers this summer.

Passengers flying with British Airways, Iberia Express, Ryanair and Vueling are being asked to use the shops, restaurants and boarding gates within Terminal Three after passing through Terminal One security.

Travellers flying with these airlines who have bookings for the Terminal One Escape Lounge have been invited to cancel and rebook for Terminal Three.

The airport plans to reopen the rest of Terminal Three, including check-in and security, at a “later stage” as capacity increases.

Karen Smart, the airport’s managing director, called the moves a “positive step forward” as traffic increases.

“We have taken this decision in light of an increase in passenger numbers since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, which is projected to continue into the summer,” she added.

“Even though the UK government has now scrapped Covid-19 travel restrictions, passengers are still reminded to check the advice for the country they are travelling to in advance of departure.” 

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New Zealand May Raise Fees for Foreign Travelers Upon Reopening

Following up on the recent announcement that New Zealand will soon reopen its borders to international travelers for the first time in two years, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash today indicated that the Kiwi government may require outside visitors to pay more to enjoy its “100% Pure” natural splendor.

Like many other destinations, New Zealand was allowed breathing room during the pandemic to reassess the way it conducts tourism and to reevaluate its priorities, realizing that, perhaps, quality is preferable to quantity when it comes to attracting international visitors.


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Reopening from COVID-19

In pre-pandemic times, New Zealand’s tourism industry generated more revenue from foreign sources than its dairy industry, according to Bloomberg. But, concerns had arisen about overcrowding and insufficient infrastructure that undermined the country’s famously green, pristine character.

Speaking on Friday at a University of Otago conference, Nash said, “As international visitors return, we will not fall back into the old ways,” adding, “Tourism won’t return to the way it was. It will be better.”

As part of that commitment, he said that he is, “planning ways now to ensure that our future visitors pay their way.”

Back in 2019, the government implemented a non-refundable International Visitor Levy (IVL) of NZ$35 (about US$24) per person, which travelers pay alongside visa or NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) fees. It’s intended to ensure tourism sustainability by funding environmental conservation and enhancement projects, as well as improvements in destination management and tourism infrastructure.

“Most of us could agree that NZ$35 for the IVL was fine when it first came in, but is not sustainable in the long term if we are to meet the expectations of visitors for world-class infrastructure and facilities,” said Nash. “I am continuing to look at the IVL but no immediate changes are in store, and no cabinet decisions have been made.”

The tourism minister declared that the sector needs to reset its approach by targeting “high value” visitors—a set that’s distinctly different from the “high net-worth” crowd, and which still includes backpackers and budget travelers.

“High-value, high-quality visitors give back more than they take,” he said. “They travel across seasons and across regions. They are environmentally conscious. They want to learn about local history and culture, and try new experiences.”

New Zealand is set to open quarantine-free to a select set of foreign travelers on May 1—two months sooner than anticipated. Overseas visitors will need to have proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, provide a negative pre-departure test and will be given two rapid antigen tests upon arrival at Auckland Airport, to be self-administered on Days 1 and 6 of their stay.

For the latest insights on travel to New Zealand, check out the guide below:

For more information, visit newzealand.com.

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New Zealand brings forward border reopening

New Zealand has brought forward plans to reopen its border for international travellers to early May.

The country, which has been effectively closed to international traffic for nearly two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will allow fully vaccinated travellers from around 60 countries to visit from 11.59pm on 1 May without the requirement to quarantine.

The countries on this visa waiver list includes the UK and US, plus most EU members. Travellers from countries not on this list cannot enter New Zealand until October 2022, although this is set to be reviewed by the New Zealand government.

All arrivals to New Zealand will still be required to provide a negative Covid test result, as well as taking a lateral flow test on their day of arrival and on day five or six of their stay.

Currently only New Zealand citizens are allowed in and out of the country, but Australians will be permitted entry from 11.59pm on 12 April.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern said: “We have now received guidance that it is safe to significantly bring forward the next stage of border reopening work, bringing back our tourists.”

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Singapore resumes border reopening after pause due to Omicron outbreak

SINGAPORE, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Singapore will expand quarantine-free travel to Hong Kong, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this month, its health ministry said on Wednesday, resuming border reopening after a pause due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The city-state will also restore and increase quotas under its vaccinated travel programme, which had been reduced in December to deal with the Omicron variant. read more

Singapore will streamline border measures for all travellers, and remove an entry approval requirement for eligible residents who are long-term pass holders, the ministry said, making it easier for expatriates to travel.

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However, some overseas workers with different permits typically employed in sectors such as construction and manufacturing will still need an entry approval.

The country intends to eventually scrap vaccinated travel lanes for visitors from designated countries to allow entry to all vaccinated visitors without quarantine, authorities said.

About two dozen countries are in the vaccinated travel lane programme including Australia, India, Malaysia, Britain and the United States. The new lane with Hong Kong is unilateral.

Singapore reported a record 19,179 local coronavirus infections on Tuesday, but a majority of the cases had mild or no symptoms. The government said the caseload was within expectations and that the overall situation in the healthcare system remained stable.

Singapore could see 15,000 to 20,000 COVID-19 daily cases until the current Omicron wave falls in a few weeks, Gan Kim Yong, minister of trade and industry, said in a briefing.

The government announced a raft of changes to local COVID-19 measures, including easing rules for close contacts of confirmed cases, removing routine testing for workers in several sectors and allowing more interactions at residences and workplaces.

Singapore will ease social and travel restrictions when the Omicron wave subsides, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said, adding that the new local rules on testing and isolation placed more weight on personal responsibility rather than legal requirements.

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Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore
Editing by Ed Davies

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Vietnam eyes full reopening to international tourists from next month

Hanoi (Reuters) — Vietnam’s tourism ministry on Tuesday proposed a full reopening of the country to foreign visitors and a lifting of nearly all travel restrictions from March 15, three months earlier than planned.

The proposal, which will be submitted to the Prime Minister for approval, follows similar reopening steps taken by other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines, where the Omicron Covid-19 variant has caused a recent spike in new infections, but fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous variants.

The proposal includes maintaining a one-day quarantine requirement for visitors plus requiring negative Covid-19 tests before departure and on arrival.

Vietnam announced a record 31,814 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, adding to the more than 2.54 million infections so far. It has recorded about 39,000 deaths overall.

It imposed among the world’s strictest border controls two years ago as the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe.

It saw some initial success in keeping the virus out, but the policy dealt a blow to its burgeoning tourism sector, which accounted for about 10% of gross domestic product in 2019.

Foreign arrivals fell to 157,000 last year, compared with 18 million in 2019.

Vietnam has since November allowed foreign tourists to visit designated places under a vaccine passport program and had originally aimed to fully reopen the industry from June.

Nearly 77% of its 98 million population has been vaccinated, according to official data, one of the region’s highest rates.

Top image: Vietnam’s Ngo Dong River. Credit: Adobe Stock

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