TOKYO: The Japanese government on Tuesday began a test project to accept small groups of foreign tourists as part of moves to ease its COVID-19 border measures.
The first group, comprising seven tourists who left locations in the United States, including Hawaii, will arrive at Narita International Airport near Tokyo later in the day and is slated to visit places mainly in the Kanto eastern Japan region and the Tohoku northeastern region.
A total of about 50 people in 15 groups will visit 12 prefectures: Iwate and Yamagata in Tohoku, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba in Kanto, Yamanashi, Ishikawa, Nagano and Gifu in central Japan, Wakayama in western Japan, and Fukuoka and Oita in southwestern Japan.
The project is carried out by the government’s Japan Tourism Agency and private-sector travel agencies.
Through the test, the government will see whether the tourists’ movements can be managed adequately and whether novel coronavirus infection prevention measures are taken appropriately, and figure out issues that need to be addressed.
While the foreign visitors will be required to thoroughly take countermeasures, including wearing face masks and sanitizing their hands, the government will assess whether any infection cases among them will be dealt with properly.
“Gaining the understanding of local people and making them feel safe are needed for accepting foreign tourists again,” tourism minister SAITO Tetsuo told a press conference on Tuesday.
Based on the results of the test project, the government will work out guidelines on effective COVID-19 measures in accepting foreign tourists, Saito said.
The project offers four- to seven-night package tours organized by six companies, including Nippon Travel Agency Co., accepting visitors from the United States, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.
Participants must be vaccinated three times while tour conductors from the six firms will manage the tourists’ movements.
They will visit locations within the prefectures that have agreed to accept tourists from abroad under the project.